Tuesday 30 May 2017 – Manchester Victoria station reopens, police appeals & more Manchester bombing updates and analysis

SKY NEWS VIDEOS

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More than a week since the bombing in the foyer between Manchester Arena and Victoria railway station, the railway station has re-opened to the public.  There were emotional returns to work for members of staff, some of whom had been caught up in the bombing on the 22 May and had even become first responders  on the night. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (below left) and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling were two of many who laid wreaths at the station to mark its reopening.  Mr Burnham said: “People went above and beyond what you would expect. Those who rushed into the danger were station staff. In these moments, you do see the best of people, you see the best of our public services and it is quite awe-inspiring to hear that.”

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The BBC spoke to some people at the re-opening today. George Berry (above centre) is a black-cab driver based at the station’s taxi rank. He said he had “mixed feelings but I’m glad to be back at work”.  He said that the lives of those disrupted by the bombing and the closure of the station, though not directly involved in the bombing, would be returning to normal: “They won’t forget, but you have to make a living.” Hannah Khan (above right) was also at the station this morning. She spoke of a sombre atmosphere at the re-opening and the heartache of some of the commuters as they try to return to the routine of the daily commute.  She told BBC Manchester radio’s Michelle Adamson: “I just want to hold my hands out and hug everyone.”

 

The managing director of Northern Trains, Liam Sumpter, spoke of those members of staff who became first responders in the immediate aftermath of the bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert.  He said 15 members of staff were among the first on the scene: “They provided first aid and comfort to those victims without any thought to their own safety and without any training in that sort of response, […]  They did the whole industry proud and I’ve got no doubt that they made a big difference on the evening.”

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The photographs above were released by police investigating the Manchester Arena bombing, carried out by Salman Abedi. They show Abedi on the day of the bombing with a blue suitcase. Police are asking for anyone with information to come forward, but warn people not to approach the case if they see it anywhere and to call police on 999 immediately. They have no reason, they say, to suspect that the case contains anything dangerous but urge caution nevertheless.  Police say they want anyone who may have seen Abedi with the suitcase around the Wilmslow Road area of the centre between 18 and 22 May to speak to them.  Russ Jackson, Detective Chief Superintendent from the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit said:

 

“I want to stress that this is a different item than the one he used in the attack.

 

“We have no reason to believe the case and its contents contain anything dangerous, but would ask people to be cautious.”

 

“The public should not approach the case if they see it but contact police immediately on 999.”

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Video footage has also been released of a man police say is likely Salman Abedi at a convenience store close to his city centre flat in Manchester.  The footage was obtained by the BBC and has been passed to the investigation. Although it is not certain this is Abedi, similarities are there and people working in the store are sure that it is the same man they have seen in the store on several occasions and are confident he was the man in the photos of Abedi released so far.  Greater Manchester Police have asked anyone with information to contact the Anti-Terrorist Hotline in confidence on 0800 789 321.

 

More searches have been carried out in the region. These include one at a rubbish tip near the M6 motorway at Pilsworth, between Bury and Heywood. There have also been searches in Whalley Range and  Rushholme – both in Greater Manchester, and searches in Chester in Cheshire and Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex – where a 23-year-old man was arrested.  The arrested man is thought to be Ala Zakry, who runs Hasoub Alafak, a UK-registered online marketplace based in Tripoli.  There are now 14 people in custody in relation to the bombing investigation.

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A vigil was held last night in St Ann’s Square (above) in central Manchester one week after the bombing at the Manchester Arena.  Hundreds of people paid their tributes by laying flowers, candles, teddy bears and messages of support. Emotions were running high, not only for those at the vigil directly affected by the bombing but for the entire city. The bells  of St Ann’s Church rang out at 10.31pm, the exact moment one week after Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb killing 22 people and injuring 120, and the crowd fell silent except for the occasional sound of people crying.  The Manchester Evening News described the scene:

 

“Well-wishers have come from across the country to pay their respects.

 

“The square has become a sea of flowers. Teddy bears, balloons and photographs of the victims have also been placed at the scene.

 

“Messages of support – and defiance – have also been written on the pavement in chalk.”

 

City Centre chief Pat Karney said of the vigil:

 

“On this painful night, we were one family in Manchester. We were thinking about all the people who love their lives and thinking about all the people in hospital.

 

“But we also thought about the pain the families are going through. We were there for them tonight – and we’ll be there for them every night – because of the way their lives have changed.

 

“Everyone in Manchester has been thinking about them. It’s an incredible painful time for the families remembering the circumstances around those hours and the agony they have gone through.

 

“Manchester will get through. We’ll go through the pain and the grief. But the families, we want them to know we’ll be with them for as long as it takes.

 

“I don’t think you can come to St Ann’s Square and not be brought to tears. Lots of the messages are from kids. When you read them, it breaks your heart.

 

“It’s broken the hearts of the families and the hearts of Manchester.

 

“The nature of these events is that within 15 minutes, they become global events. The people of Manchester are grateful for all the messages of support we’ve had from all over the world.”

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On Sunday night there was also a vigil held in Heaton Manor Park (above) to the memory of Martyn Hett, one of the victims who died in the bombing.  The leader of Stockport Council, Alex Ganotis, issued a statement:

 

“It’s just over a week ago since our country was plunged into grief and despair following the horrific terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena.

 

“The events of that night sent shockwaves throughout the world and many in our region are still trying to come to terms with what happened.

 

“Our borough, like many other areas across the UK, has been directly affected by last week’s events.

 

“I joined many others on Sunday evening to pay tribute to Stockport resident Martyn Hett who tragically lost his life in last Monday’s attack.

 

“Like the hundreds of people who were there, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotion that filled Heaton Moor Park that night.

 

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those organisations and volunteers who supported the vigil and enabled the community to come together and remember one of their own.

 

“I am also aware of the numerous tributes and events going on across the borough to remember those affected – each one giving people the opportunity to pay their respects to those who lost their lives or who were injured.

 

“Stockport Council has opened a book of condolence for residents to pass on their thoughts to the victims and their families. The book of condolence can be signed in person at the reception area of Stockport Town Hall. An online book of condolence is also available on the Council website.”

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Ariana Grande  will headline a star-studded benefit gig in support of the fundraising campaigns after the  Manchester bombing on Sunday. Called One Love Manchester, the concert will be held at the city’s Old Trafford cricket ground on Sunday 4 June. Stars who are so far known to be appearing with Ariana Grande are Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Usher, Take That and One Director’s Niall Horan.  Organisers are working with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to ensure the concert goes ahead.  GMP’s chief constable Ian Hopkins said he was “fairly confident” it would go ahead, with logistical plans complicated by security requirements and the need to police a testimonial football match for Manchester United player Michael Carrick being held on the same day at United’s Old Trafford ground less than half a mile away. The kick-off time of the match has been brought forward to earlier in the day.  Mr Hopkins explained the problems:

 

“We’ve been working with Michael Carrick’s team and [Grande’s] team to try and make this happen, because clearly we can’t have 65,000 people in Old Trafford for Michael Carrick’s [testimonial game] and 50,000 in Lancashire cricket club, both at the same time, […] It would just have caused utter traffic chaos, let alone the security issues for us.”

 

Michael Carrick issued a statement on Twitter, apologising for the earlier kick-off and offering his support to the concert:

 

“I’m sorry if this causes an inconvenience to anyone attending the game. Our game, and the coming together of the people of Manchester has taken on a much greater significance since the tragic events of Monday 22nd May.

 

“I personally want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and all those affected. We want everybody to know that we are Manchester and we show a sense of togetherness and we give our full support to the benefit concert after our game.

 

“I’m looking forward to seeing all of you this weekend at the testimonial to celebrate what our city is all about.”

 

Police have been consulting with families of the victims about the concert, less than two weeks after the bombing. Mr Hopkins said the majority were  “very much in favour,” but “there are some that clearly aren’t.” He added: “That is absolutely understandable.” Tickets for the concert are set to go on sale on Thursday at 10am. Those who were at the Ariana Grande concert targeted by Salman Abedi will be offered free tickets for the One Love Manchester concert.  Ms Grande has posted an open letter to her fans on social media:

 

“My heart, prayers and condolences are with the victims of the Manchester attack and their loved ones. There is nothing I or anyone can do to take away the pain you are feeling or to make this better. However, I extend my hand and heart and everything I possibly can give to you and yours, should you want or need my help in any way.

 

“We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win … Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.

 

“Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy. So that is what it will continue to do for us. We will continue to honour the ones we lost, their loved ones, my fans and all affected by this tragedy. They will be on my mind and in my heart every day and I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life.”

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Cartoon by Brian Adcock

 

The concert will be raising money for the victims and their families of the Manchester Arena bombing. No doubt the concert will add a substantial amount to the money already raised by The We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, organised by the British Red Cross, which has already surpassed £6m.  Organisers are anticipating another £2m to be raised by the concert.  The chief executive of the British Red Cross, Mike Adamson, said:

 

“This benefit concert is a gesture of solidarity by Ariana Grande and the many other stars who have pledged their involvement. It will help raise funds to support the survivors and the families who tragically lost someone last week.

 

“This event is an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate things that unite us – music, humanity and the will to do something to help others.”

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Left-Right: Coldplay, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Niall Horan, Pharrell Williams, Take That and Usher


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GMP’s chief constable Ian Hopkins has addressed the issue of how much authorities knew of Salman Abedi before he attacked the Manchester Arena on 22 May.  Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester he said that while Abedi was known to the police for “relatively minor offences” such as theft, receiving stolen goods and minor assault, any concerns about his radicalisation were not reported to local authorities.  He also said that Abedi was not known to the Government’s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme, which tries to help people who are on the road to radicalisation. The Chief Constable said:

 

“There’s been a lot of reporting and people commenting that he was reported to us on a number of occasions,” said Hopkins, answering questions from listeners on Tuesday morning.

 

“You will have heard us talk about the Prevent programme, which is about safeguarding and trying to deradicalise and deal with those who are at risk of being radicalised. Abedi was not known to the Prevent programme. He was not on any sort of Prevent agenda.”

 

Abedi was known, however, to MI5 – Britain’s internal security service – who are now investigating how they missed the danger posed by him.  Abedi had been examined by security services officers in the past as one of 20,000 one-time jihadist suspects but he was not deemed enough of a threat to make it onto a list of 3,000 people under active investigation.  The MI5 inquiries will attempt to find out why.  Mr Hopkins said that he is not privy to what the security services knew of Abedi and was speaking from a police perspective.  One member of the Muslim community in Manchester told the BBC that Abedi had been reported to authorities for saying that “being a suicide bomber was OK,” while NBC News in America is reporting that Abedi’s own family reported him as “dangerous” to the security services.

 

The Chief Constable spoke of those in custody, saying that police have 14 days where they are allowed to hold them before charging or releasing them. They can also apply for an extension. He said that prosecution lawyers are building up cases against the men in custody and are looking at charges relating to conspiracy to murder and the Terrorism Act. He said: “So you would be looking at a week today for the first charges to come about.”


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Whie we rightly mourn and express anger over last week’s Manchester bombing, we should never forget that such atrocities are taking place on an almost daily basis in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.  Two car bombs in Baghdad, Iraq this morning claimed more victims than the Manchester bombing – and thee are just the latest in a long line of deadly suicide and car bombs in the city over the last few years. The first car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop (above left), killing at least 17 and wounding 32. The shop was in the commercial Karrada district. The second car bomb (above right) detonated  near the state-run Public Pension Office near the al-Shahada (Martyrs’) Bridge in the Shawaka district of the city. At least 14 were killed in that blast and 37 more wounded.

 

The attacks, which came days into the month-long fasting period of Ramadan, were both claimed by Islamic State and were targeting the Shia Muslim community in Baghdad. The ice-cream parlour blast was captured on video.  The Independent describes the video:

 

“[it] shows a busy downtown area, with cars driving down the street when a massive blast strikes. Then a huge fireball engulfs a building, forcing the cars to scramble to get away. Videos of the attack posted on social media show wounded and bloodied people crying for help on the road outside the ice cream shop.”

 

These blasts, as the Manchester bombing has, would dominate news headlines across the West for days even weeks after if they took place in a Western city.  The regularity of the devastation in the Middle East, however, pushes them out of our minds. They become horrifically familiar and we simply ignore them, to be brutally honest.  Therefore, by definition, we are ignoring the deaths on a daily basis of the men, women and children who die in these blasts – most of whom are just everyday people trying to get on with their everyday lives.  As horrific as these blasts were in Baghdad, they are far from the worst. Less than a year ago, in July 2016, a massive ISIS truck bomb exploded, also in Karrada, killing at least 324 people. it was the worst bombing in Iraq since before the US-led invasion in 2003.  Imagine for a minute the reaction if that amount of people were killed in a blast in London, or Berlin or Washington.  The people of Iraq and elsewhere in the region live with such terror everyday of their lives.

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A Kuwaiti telecommunications company, Zain, which operates across the Middle East has released an online advertisement that has gone viral and being praised for promoting “the real spirit of Islam.” The advert is a three-minute long musical video showing Muslims from all walks of life coming together to dissuade a suicide bomber from detonating his bomb by offering to overcome “bombing with mercy.”

 

Omran DaqneeshWhile the potential bomber is wiring his bomb, a child’s voice says: “I will tell God everything, that you’ve filled the cemeteries with our children and emptied our school desks.” He then boards a bus, where a young boy sings:  “The forgiving and forbearing who hurts not those who hurt him.” The boy is mocked-up to look like Omran Daqneesh, (right) Aleppo’s “ boy in the orange ambulance seat.” Emirati pop star Hussain al-Jassmi then takes over singing, urging people to “bomb violence with mercy,” accompanied by real images of victims of ISIS and al-Qaeda attacks across the region.

 

The video ends with the message:  ”We will encounter their hatred with songs of love,” and the video fades to black with the words: “From now until happiness.”

 

The video, which has been released to coincide with Ramadan, has been widely praised for its message of love and mercy, but has also  been criticised for using real-life terror images and for recreating Omran Dagneesh.  It is perhaps aimed at those who might be thinking of committing an act of terror during Ramadan, which in recent years has been a period of increased attacks by jihadist terrorism.

 

رمضان هو الشهر الذي تبدأ رحمه، وسطه هو الغفران 
الذي تنتهي من الحرية.

 

“Ramadan is the month whose beginning is mercy, whose middle is

forgiveness and whose end is freedom from fire.”


Sources & Further Reading:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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