Four days after a suicide bombing killed 22 people, wounded dozens and plunged the U.K. into mourning, political campaigning resumed Friday for next month’s general election, and the main opposition leader linked deadly terrorism at home to foreign wars like the one in Libya.
In his first speech after the attack, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that his party would change Britain’s foreign policy if it takes power after the June 8 vote by abandoning the “war on terror.”
“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home,” he said.
Suicide bomber Salman Abedi had strong links to Libya. His parents had been born there before moving to Britain, and he traveled there on occasion.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon was quick to attack Corbyn for his comments.
“Jeremy Corbyn could be prime minister of our country in less than two weeks’ time, yet he has said only days after one of the worst terrorist atrocities this country has ever known that terror attacks in Britain are our own fault,” Fallon said.
While Corbyn faces criticism for his comments, he is trying to win back the many Labour supporters who turned away from the party in the aftermath of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Blair’s backing of U.S. President George W. Bush brought more than a million protesters into the streets. When it became apparent that weapons of mass destruction would not be found in Iraq, Blair’s popularity faded badly after a string of election victories.
When home-grown terrorists attacked London subway and bus lines in 2005, some blamed Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War. Corbyn’s speech reflects the view that Britain’s actions overseas are at least in part responsible for the increase in terror attacks at home.
The Labour Party under Corbyn has trailed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives in the polls, but it has begun to make gains in the last week.
British police investigating the Manchester bombing made a new arrest Friday while continuing to search several properties.
Seven other men are being held on suspicion of offenses violating the Terrorism Act. Their ages ranged from 18 to 38.
A 16-year-old boy and a 34-year-old woman who had been arrested were released without charge, police said.
Authorities are chasing possible links between the Abedi and terrorists in Manchester, elsewhere in Europe, and in North Africa and the Middle East. Britain’s security level has been upgraded to “critical,” meaning another attack may be imminent.
Abedi, a college dropout who had grown up in the Manchester area, was known to security services because of his radical views. His parents came to Britain early in the 1990s.
He reportedly was in contact with family members just before the attack.
The name of the man arrested in the early hours Friday and those of the seven others in custody were not released. No one has yet been charged in the bombing.
London police say extra security is being added for major sporting events this weekend.
Chief Superintendent Jon Williams said Friday that extra protection measures and extra officers are being deployed throughout the capital because of the increased terror-threat level.
He said fans coming to sports matches this weekend should come earlier than usual because of added security screening.
Williams said “covert and discrete tactics” will also be in place to protect the transport network.
He says police want the approach to be “unpredictable” and to make London “as hostile an environment as possible to terrorists.”
British police working on the case have resumed intelligence-sharing with U.S. counterparts after a brief halt because of anger over leaks to U.S. media thought by Britain to be coming from U.S. officials. British officials say that have received assurances from U.S. authorities that confidential material will be protected.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in London Friday that the U.S. accepts responsibility for the leaks.
At the mosque that Abedi attended in Manchester, director of trustees Mohammed el-Khayat told worshippers that police would be told if anyone shows signs of having been radicalized.
“The police will be the first to know,” he said before Friday afternoon prayers. He strongly condemned the attack and said radical views will not be tolerated.