A man armed with an “improvised” bomb has killed at least 22 people and injured 59 outside a concert arena filled with teenagers in central Manchester on Monday night, in the worst terrorism incident in the UK since 2005. Police said the bomber, who died in the explosion, detonated the device shortly after the end of a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande at about 10.30pm. The incident adds the northern English city to the growing list of recent western targets that includes London, Paris, Stockholm and Berlin.
Quoted by the FT, Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said they were still attempting to determine whether the attacker “was acting alone or was part of a network”.
“This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see,” Mr Hopkins said at a news conference on Tuesday morning. “Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives… We believe, at this stage, the attack last night was conducted by one man,” Hopkins told reporters. “The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.
British political leaders, who were in the middle of a general election race, halted all campaigning. Prime Minister Theresa May was scheduled to chair a meeting of the cabinet’s emergency Cobra committee on Tuesday morning.
“We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” Mrs May said. “All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”
Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency meeting with intelligence chiefs on the deadliest militant assault in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005. Witnesses related the horror of the blast which prompted a stampede just as the concert ended at Europe’s largest indoor arena.
“We ran and people were screaming around us and pushing on the stairs to go outside and people were falling down, girls were crying, and we saw these women being treated by paramedics having open wounds on their legs … it was just chaos,” said Sebastian Diaz, 19. “It was literally just a minute after it ended, the lights came on and the bomb went off,” Diaz said.
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U.S. President Donald Trump described the attack as the work of “evil losers”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it “will only strengthen our resolve to…work together with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds.”
According to AP, there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Online, supporters of the extremist Islamic State group, which holds territory in Iraq’s Mosul and around its de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa, celebrated the blast. One wrote: “May they taste what the weak people in Mosul and (Raqqa) experience from their being bombed and burned,” according to the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group.
“A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena,” said concertgoer Majid Khan, 22. “It was one bang and essentially everyone from the other side of the arena where the bang was heard from suddenly came running towards us as they were trying to exit.” Added Oliver Jones, 17: “The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run.” Video from inside the arena showed concertgoers screaming as they made their way out amid a sea of pink balloons.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the government was working to establish “the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack.” May is due to chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee later Tuesday. She and other candidates suspended campaigning for Britain’s June 8 election after the blast.
Police advised the public to avoid the area around the Manchester Arena, and the train station near the arena, Victoria Station, was evacuated and all trains canceled.
The Dangerous Woman tour is the third concert tour by 23-year-old Grande and supports her third studio album, “Dangerous Woman.” Grande’s role as Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s high school sitcom “Victorious” propelled her to teen idol status, starting in 2010.