The 22-year-old behind the deadly bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was known to security services, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Wednesday, as the country elevated its terror threat to the highest level for the first time in a decade.
Police have named Salman Abedi, a British-born national of Libyan descent, as the bomber in the attack on Manchester Arena, which killed at least 22 people, including children. Abedi died in the blast, in what appears to have been a suicide bombing.
Rudd confirmed in an interview with the BBC that Abedi was on the radar of intelligence services and that he had recently returned to the UK from Libya.
French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told BFM-TV that Abedi had “proven links to ISIS,” though he did not elaborate.
“The intelligence services know a lot of people, and I’m sure we will find out more what level they knew about (Abedi) in due course. But at the moment all they have confirmed is that they did know about him. And as I say, we will find out more when the operation is complete,” she said.
Rudd has refused to respond to Collomb’s comments that Abedi was believed to have been to Syria, in an interview with Sky News. She also refused to elaborate on reports in Arab media that the father of the bomber had links to Islamist rebel groups in Libya.
Collomb’s comments came after Rudd slammed the US for leaking information on the attack investigation as “irritating.”
A string of details about the attack, including the bomber’s name, have emerged from US law enforcement sources before being released by British officials.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced Tuesday night that Britain’s threat level had been raised from “severe” to “critical,” and warned that a “further attack may be imminent.”
The change in status has led to speculation that that Abedi may not have been acting alone and police are investigating whether Abedi belonged to a wider network. Rudd said that it was “likely, possible, that he wasn’t doing this on his own.”
Police have conducted a series of raids since the attack and arrested three men in south Manchester on Wednesday. Another 23-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday.
Up to 3,800 military personnel have been made available across Britain following the attack, the Home Secretary announced, and almost 1,000 are now deployed.
London’s Metropolitan Police service announced that military personnel would guard “key locations” as part of what’s been called “Operation Temperer,” and soldiers were seen at Buckingham Palace and extra police at train stations on Wednesday morning.
Police in London said a man with a knife was arrested near Buckingham Palace Wednesday morning, but they stressed that the incident was not terrorism-related.
“I would expect this to be temporary but we will keep a close eye to see how long we need them for and when it’s appropriate we end Operation Temperer and go back to our different levels,” Rudd said.
Protected sites in London also include Downing Street, embassies and the Palace of Westminster. The deployments would free up armed police officers to carry out patrols of the city, London police said in a statement.
The British parliament said that it was closing its doors to non-passholders and canceled all its tours, events and banquets.
Attacker born in UK
The suspected attacker, Abedi, has not yet been formally identified by the coroner, Manchester police said.
Abedi was of Libyan descent but born and raised in the UK, sources in Manchester’s Libyan community told CNN. He was a student at the University of Salford in Manchester.
The University told CNN that he was studying business and management but while he was enrolled for the current academic year he has not been attending classes.
ISIS said on its Telegram channel Tuesday that a “soldier of the caliphate” was able to “plant explosive devices” at the arena, a US counterterrorism source told CNN. ISIS routinely claims attacks it has no proven connection to.
Authorities have discovered no evidence of a link between the attacker and an established terror group, a British counter-terrorism official told CNN.
Children among the dead
Monday’s blast marked the deadliest terror attack on British soil since the 2005 London bombings, which killed 52 people.
Six people who died in the horrific attack Monday have been identified — they include an 8-year-old girl and two teenagers.
Concertgoer Olivia Campbell, 15, whose mother spoke to CNN during an agonizing wait for news from her daughter, had gone to the concert with her friend Adam to celebrate his birthday.
“RIP my darling precious gorgeous girl Olivia Campbell taken far far to soon go sing with the angels and keep smiling mummy loves you so much,” Charlotte Campbell wrote, posting a Snapchat photo of her daughter.
Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland was also named as one of the fatalities, Lancashire County Council confirmed.
Chris Upton, the head teacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, described her as “simply a beautiful little girl” who was “quiet and unassuming with a creative flair.”
Two Poles were also named among the dead, according to a tweet from Poland’s Foreign Ministry. No further details have been released.
Georgina Callander, 18, a superfan who had met Ariana Grande, was killed, according to her school, and John Atkinson, a 26-year-old student from the Greater Manchester area also died in the attack, according to Ivan Lewis, a local politician.
At least 12 victims aged 16 or under were being treated at a children’s hospital for serious injuries, some of them fighting for their lives, a Manchester health official said. Sixty-four people were injured in the attack.