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UK raises terror-threat level as Manchester mourns attack

May 23, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
The United Kingdom is mourning the victims of a suicide bombing. Twenty-two people were killed, including an 8-year-old girl, Monday night at the end of a pop concert. The attacker has been identified as a Briton of Libyan descent, and police have raided two sites and arrested one man in connection. Hari Sreenivasan learns more from special correspondent Natalie Powell of Feature Story News.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Britain is raising its terror threat level to critical, as Prime Minister Theresa May warns that another attack may be imminent. She ordered the military to deploy troops tonight, after the bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people.

Special correspondent Natalie Powell begins our coverage.

WOMAN: Oh, my God. What’s going on? What just happened?

NATALIE POWELL: The scene in Manchester last night moments after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded concert. It happened at the Manchester arena, an indoor venue that seats 21,000 people.

The bomb went off in the space connecting the arena and adjacent Victoria train station. The attack set off a stampede, just as American pop star Ariana Grande had finished performing.

ANINA, Eyewitness: I was like, we need to run, so we started running. We ran straight out the doors, all the way down to the hotel, and all I could hear was screaming, people crying. Everyone was just running everywhere. It was completely madness.

SEBASTIAN DIAZ, Eyewitness: People were screaming around us and pushing down the stairs to go outside, and people were falling down. Girls were crying. And we saw these women being treated by paramedics. They had, like, open wounds on their legs, no shoes. It was just chaos.

NATALIE POWELL: This afternoon, greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins publicly identified the attacker as a Briton of Libyan descent.

IAN HOPKINS, Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police: I can confirm that the man suspected of carrying out last night’s atrocity is 22-year-old Salman Abedi.

NATALIE POWELL: Hopkins also confirmed police raided two sites in Manchester and arrested a man in connection with the attack.

IAN HOPKINS: Our priority, along with the police counterterrorist network and our security partners, is to continue to establish whether he was acting alone or working as part of a wider network.

NATALIE POWELL: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility today, in a statement that said: “One of the caliphate soldiers managed to plant an explosive device in the middle of a gathering of crusaders.”

U.S. intelligence officials voiced doubts about the claim.

In London, Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack, the deadliest in Britain since 2005.

THERESA MAY, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people, who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.

NATALIE POWELL: May also announced that campaigning for the upcoming June 8 election has been suspended. Her opponent and leader of the Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, also denounced the attacks.

JEREMY CORBYN, Leader, Labour Party: This is an appalling act of violence against people and it must be totally and unreservedly and completely condemned.

NATALIE POWELL: Thousands of people turned out today for a vigil in Manchester. And at Buckingham Palace in London, Queen Elizabeth II held a minute of silence.

Condolences also came pouring in from abroad. President Trump interrupted his visit to Bethlehem today to address the attack.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom, so many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life.

NATALIE POWELL: Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron went to the British Embassy in Paris to express his government’s sympathy and solidarity.

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, France (through interpreter): What happened yesterday in Manchester showed once again that terrorists have a target, the free world, youth, and that we all have a deep common destiny in this regard.

NATALIE POWELL: Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his own message of condolences and said: “We strongly condemn this cynical, inhumane crime. We are certain its perpetrators will not escape the punishment they deserve.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says there is no credible threat to U.S. music venues. But it warns there may be increased security around public places and events in the days ahead.

And an increased police presence is certainly something that we have seen here on the streets of Manchester, but it’s also likely to continue, Hari, not just here in Manchester, but across the U.K., of course, with the U.K. government now increasing the terror threat level to critical at its highest level.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Natalie, we have just heard a few of the details of a couple of the victims that have come out. There have been so many victims that have been killed and injured. As more news of this is made public, what’s happening to the people on the streets there?

NATALIE POWELL: That’s right.

We now know, of course, that 22 people died in this attack, 59 people were injured. Among those fatalities, of course, we, as you have said, had the names of a number of them being released, and we are expecting more in the coming hours and days.

A 20-year-old man was among them. The first person to be released, though, the name, was an 18-year-old girl Georgina Callander. She was a student locally.

But perhaps most tragic of all, Hari, is the 8-year-old girl, the youngest so far to be pronounced dead, Saffie Rose Rousso. Now, she was attending the concert with her mother and her sister. They were both taken to separate hospitals because of their injuries. And it was only later, we understand, that they discovered of her death, of course, an 8-year-old girl, which really goes to show the tragedy here.

But, as we are expecting further names and certainly ages of these, we know that a number of them were children that perished in this attack, are likely to come out in the coming days.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, also, the role of social media. Ariana Grande has an enormous social media presence. Social media is probably one of the first ways people found out about this attack. But there were also opportunities for people to help through it.

NATALIE POWELL: Absolutely.

It was an immediate response really from Great Manchester police putting out on Twitter that an incident had occurred. But immediately after that, interestingly, people were tweeting the hashtag #openManchester, telling people that were stuck in the area — a lot of people, of course, couldn’t get home and there was sheer panic in this area — telling them to come into their own homes and they would take care of them.

It was very much similar to what we have seen in Paris during the Bataclan and the other attacks that took place with the #PorteOuverte hashtag that trended, getting people off the streets and into homes where they could be safe.

In addition to that, of course, we have also seen a huge movement to try to find many of the missing people using social media, using Twitter. And, of course, we have seen a solidarity — solidarity movement here as well, with the hashtag #peaceforManchester.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Natalie Powell joining us from Manchester, thank so much.

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