Sunday 28 May 2017 – More photos of Salman Abedi released, plus more updates and analysis of the Manchester Arena bombing

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Two more photos have been released by police showing Salman Abedi last Monday night, not long before he blew himself up at the Manchester Arena killing 22 people and injuring dozens more. The newly-released images were captured on CCTV, but exactly where they were taken has not been released. Police are appealing for anyone with information of Abedi’s movements from the 18 May to come forward.  It is known that his Manchester city centre flat was one of the last places he went before the attack and may have carried out final touches on the bomb and preparations there before going to the Manchester Arena, where he detonated his bomb in the foyer between the arena and Victoria Station at around 10.35pm as a concert by American singer Ariana Grande was ending.

 

The investigation continues with around 1,000 people dedicated to the investigation. People have been arrested across the country, including in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Warwickshire, as well as Abedi’s brother and father in Libya.  Two have been released earlier this week without charge which still leaves 13 in custody. The most recent arrests came today following searches in the  Moss Side and Old Trafford areas of Greater Manchester (below). A further arrest was made of a 19-year-old man in the Gorton area of Manchester later in the day. The progress being made with the investigation led to the UK’s threat level being reduced back down to “severe” from “critical”  yesterday after a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee. The risk of another attack is now classed as “highly likely” rather than “imminent.” Following the attack and the realisation that a network of some sort was involved in the attack, the threat level had been raised to “critical” on Tuesday night and fears that a bomb-maker was still at large made the chances of another attack that much greater.

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Many events have been discussing during the week whether to cancel or postpone.  Many individual events, for example music gigs, have been, but major sporting and music festivals have decided to continue as planned – albeit with heightened security. Events taking place this this weekend are going ahead, including yesterday’s  FA Cup Final (below left) and this morning’s Great Manchester Run (video), which began with a minute’s silence (below right) and the reading of a poem – “Do Something” –  by poet Tony “Longfella” Walsh.  Following the minute’s silence the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back In Anger” was played over the loudspeakers. The same song had been sung by the crowd at the vigil for the bombing victims at St Anne’s Square in Manchester on Thursday night. There was also be a minute’s silence at BBC Radio 1’s “Big Weekend,” being held in Hull yesterday and today.

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Some people were reassured by the presence of armed police at the run today, others were wary, but the mood overall seemed defiant and resilient – a spirit of not letting terrorism stop them enjoying themselves.  This idea was also expressed by the leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, who said:

 

 “It was not whether it was going to happen but how we could make it happen.

 

“ We’re all here for one reason. It is an act of defiance, an act of solidarity.

 

“It’s a community coming together to share grief and to say Manchester will not be beaten by terrorism.

 

“People really want to be here to stand up to be counted. Seeking strength in each other.”

 

The event director for the Greater Manchester Run, Charlie Mussett,  also reflected on the event going ahead after the bombing: 

 

“Manchester’s not the same place this week. The event is not the same event.

 

“It’s a bit different and we’re reflecting that in the tone and content of the event and showing respect for victims and families and the horror that the city has seen.

 

“Equally we have people coming here to run a half marathon or a 10km and we’re hoping to lift their spirits as best as we possibly can.

 

“I think it’s incredibly emotional.”

 

The founder of the Great Manchester Run, Brendon Foster, said of the run today: “All of our feelings this morning have been about the 22 people who died, their families and that terrible atrocity. But today is about not doing what [the terrorists] want us to do, change our way of life, be frightened, the people of Manchester are saying this is our city, you’re not going to take away our independence. We are providing the stage for that.”

 

Meanwhile, HNS England have revealed that of the 116 people who were hospitalised following Monday’s attack, 54 are still being treated in hospitals across Greater Manchester with 19 of them in critical care.

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Despite the investigation making good progress the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd (above), has warned that part’s of the terror network behind the Manchester attack could still be at large. In light of this the Home Secretary announced that for the first time suspected Islamist terrorists will be subject to exclusion orders, which will mean they will face prosecution if they attempt to enter the country without engaging with the authorities. The power to use exclusion orders already existed but had not been used before now.  Ms Rudd refused to say how many have been applied so far but said that:  “We have started to use them.”  She also refused to rule out further anti-terror legislation in response to the attack by Salman Abedi and his ability to avoid detection despite being on the radar of the security services.

 

Abedi’s now obvious radicalisation seems to have not triggered a more urgent investigation and monitoring into him by MI5.  His radical views were reported by the Muslim community in Manchester several years ago and it is known that he had connections with known jihadists and had visited Libya on several occasions – from where his parents came – and possibly also Syria. The investigation is now also suggesting links elsewhere in Europe, including in Frankfurt, Germany.  Ms Rudd was evasive when asked  about missed chances to stop Abedi: “I wouldn’t rush to conclusions, as you seem to be, that they have missed.” Pressed by Andrew Marr on this morning’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, she added: “We won’t shy away from looking at what we can do to keep people safe. We are in constant discussion with the security services and the police to make sure they have the right tools they need.“

 

She said that “we can’t be entirely sure that [the operation] is closed,  […] It’s an ongoing operation. There are 11 people in custody, the operation is still at full tilt, in a way. Until the operation is complete, we can’t be entirely sure that it is closed.”  On Abedi, whom she admitted had been “subject to interest” by MI5, said added: “The intelligence services are still collecting information about him and about the people around him. But I would not rush to conclusions, as you seem to be, that they have somehow missed something.”

 

She warned of the scale of the threat from Islamic State, whom she calls Daesh, and their radicalisation of young Muslims in the UK:  “What this reminds us is the scale of the problem that we have, the enemy that we have, Daesh, that is trying to weaponise the young people in our society.”

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MI5 has ordered two “urgent inquiries” into its how it missed the opportunities to stop Salman Abedi before he became Britain’s first suicide bomber in 12 years on Monday night. The two inquiries will examine how MI5 missed the danger signs posed by Abedi and how MI5 failed to heed warnings from the Muslim community several years ago about Abedi’s growing radicalism.  One inquiry has already been ongoing since the bombing and will attempt to quickly “identify any glaring errors,” while the second will be more in-depth and thorough.  The reviews come at a time when security officials are warning of further attack plots and that Islamist terrorism is at an “unprecedented scale.”

 

The first review has been restricted as MI5 have ploughed its resources into the investigation of the bombing and recovering forensic material.  The Guardian details how the second review will proceed:

 

The second review will be more detailed and look at the decision-making around Abedi before his attack. A source said the key question, given what is now evident about the danger Abedi posed, would be: “Would different decisions be made?”

 

The longer review will look at the processes and systems used to assess suspects and what was known about any of the other main conspirators. The system of assessing and managing risk used by MI5 is coming under immense strain, given the service’s unrelenting and rising workload.

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The politicians, in the meantime, are at each other’s throats over security. The Home Secretary Amber Rudd (above left) said that if Jeremy Corbyn were Prime Minister the risk of a further atrocity would increase.  Labour’s Diane Abbott (above right), Rudd’s shadow Home Secretary, blamed Conservative cuts to border agencies and the police and that these have “consequences.”  She added, speaking to the Guardian:

 

“Citizens have a right to expect that the government sets their safety and protection as their number one priority and provides the resources to achieve that. It is no exaggeration to say that this government has failed in that elementary duty.”


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