Police Arrests Suspected Members of Manchester Bomber’s Network

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Police activity in Manchester on Wednesday. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

The Manchester suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert venue packed with children was part of a network, the city’s chief of police said on Wednesday, as troops deployed across Britain to help prevent further attacks. Police arrested five people Wednesday, including one woman.

“I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating,” police chief Ian Hopkins said outside Manchester Police headquarters.

“And as I’ve said, it continues at a pace. There’s extensive investigations going on and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak.”

Earlier, Interior Minister Amber Rudd said that the bomber, Salman Abedi, had recently returned from Libya. Her French counterpart, Gerard Collomb, said that the bomber had links with Islamic State and had probably visited Syria as well.

Rudd scolded U.S. officials for leaking details about the investigation into the Manchester attack before British authorities were prepared to go public.

The Manchester bombing has raised concern across Europe. Cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St. Petersburg, Berlin and London have suffered terrorist attacks in the last two years.

British-born Abedi, 22, blew himself up on Monday night at the Manchester Arena indoor venue at the end of a concert attended by thousands of children and teenagers.

His 22 victims included an eight-year-old girl, several teenage girls, a 28-year-old man and a Polish couple who had come to pick up their daughters.

Britain’s official terror threat level was raised to “critical,” the highest level, late on Tuesday, meaning an attack was expected imminently.

Rudd said that up to 3,800 soldiers could be deployed on Britain’s streets, taking on guard duties to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation. An initial deployment of 984 had been ordered, first in London and then elsewhere.

Soldiers were seen at the Houses of Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street residence and at London police headquarters at New Scotland Yard.

A source close to the investigation into the bombing told Reuters that the focus was on whether Abedi had received help in putting together the bomb and on where it had been done.

The BBC reported that security services thought the bomb was too sophisticated for Abedi to have built by himself.

Police arrested five people Wednesday, including at least three in Manchester and one in Wigan, a town 17 miles to the west of Manchester. Police said they were assessing a package carried by the man in Wigan.

British police also arrested Abedi’s brother Tuesday.

Another brother of Adebi, as well has his father, were arrested Wednesday in Tripoli, Libya, on suspicion of links to Islamic State, local counterterrorism police said.

In London, the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a draw for tourists, was canceled because it requires support from police officers, which authorities decided was not a good use of police resources given the threat level.

Britain also has a national election scheduled for June 8. All campaigning was suspended after the attack, although major parties said they would resume some activities on Thursday and national-level campaigning on Friday.

The government said that minute’s silence would be held at all official buildings at 10:00 GMT on Thursday.

Greater Manchester Police said they are now confident that they know the identity of all the people who lost their lives and have made contact with all the families. They said they would formally name the victims after forensic postmortems, which would take four or five days.

The bombing also left 64 people wounded, of whom 20 were receiving critical care for highly traumatic injuries to major organs and to limbs, a health official said.

Rudd was asked by the BBC about the fact that information about Abedi, including his name, had come out of the United States before it was cleared by British authorities.

“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again.”

France, which has repeatedly been hit by devastating terrorist attacks since 2015, extended emergency powers.