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Tight security and tears as Manchester benefit concert kicks off

By Mark Hanrahan1 | MANCHESTER, England

MANCHESTER, England U.S . pop singer Ariana Grande headlined a star-studded benefit concert in Manchester on Sunday that was both joyful and mournful, in aid of victims of the bombing that rocked the city last month, as security fears ran high after attackers in London killed seven people.

Around 50,000 fans crammed into Old Trafford cricket ground under the watchful eye of hundreds of police, including a significant number of armed officers, a sight that would be unusual under normal circumstances.

The show saw performances from big pop acts from both sides of the Atlantic, including local heroes Take That and Liam Gallagher, along with Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Little Mix, Coldplay, the Black Eyed Peas, and Grande.

The show was a mix of gaiety and somber reflection – fans could at times be seen jumping for joy, while others, holding banners saying “for our angels”, could be seen wiping away tears . The event began with a moment of silence for the victims of the bombing less than two weeks ago.

“I don t want to feel or hear or see any fear in this building,” U.S . singer Pharrell Williams told the crowd as he led them in a rendition of his hit single “Happy”. “The only thing we ll feel here tonight is love, and positivity.”

Fellow singer Miley Cyrus joined the rendition and said: “I d like to wrap my arms around each and every one of you and thank you .. . The most important responsibility we have in this time is to take care of one another.”

During her set, “Part of Me”, singer Katy Perry told the crowd: “love conquers fear and love conquers hate, and this love you choose will give you strength and it s our greatest power,” before asking the crowd to turn and hug the person next to them.

The somber cause that the concert was being held to benefit was never far from the crowd’s mind . Grande told the audience that her song selection was influenced by the mother of 15-year-old Olivia Campbell, who died in last month’s bombing.

“Sorry” singer Justin Bieber also paid tribute, saying: “I just want to take this moment to honor the people that were lost . We love you so much .

To the families, we love you so much.”

Up to 14,000 of those who attended Grande’s May 22 concert, at which a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults, were given free tickets to attend Sunday’s show, with some persuaded to attend by their affection for the pop star, and despite their very real concerns about security.

“I m real excited, but real scared,” Shannon Beetham, 14, who was injured in last month’s bombing, told Reuters. “We were there in Manchester (arena) as well, I was hit.”

There were also plenty of upbeat moments, such as when a uniformed police officer was seen holding hands and dancing hand-in-hand with young fans, or when former Oasis front man Liam Gallagher belted out a swaggering version of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”.

Grande closed the show by inviting all the other performers on stage to help her sing her 2014 hit “One Last Time”, before she closed with a moving solo version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

Fans seemed to have forgotten any lingering fears about security towards the end of the evening, with a lively crowd of middle-aged fans singing “Tonight, I’m a rock and roll star” as they made their way out of the stadium.

(Editing by Tom Heneghan and James Dalgleish)


References

  1. ^ Mark Hanrahan (uk.reuters.com)

Champions Trophy to continue under heightened security after London attack

The Champions Trophy is set to continue under heightened security in the wake of the London terror attack on Saturday night. Seven people were killed and dozens more injured by three terrorists just two miles from The Oval, one of the three venues hosting the global cricket tournament. The International Cricket Council said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by what has happened in London overnight.

“The ICC and ECB England and Wales Cricket Board continue to place safety and security at the ICC Champions Trophy and ICC Women’s World Cup this summer as the highest priority.”

The ICC added swift measures were immediately taken to ensure the safety of competing teams around the country. Sunday’s Champions Trophy match between India and Pakistan at Edgbaston went ahead amid increased security and was preceded by a minute’s silence. The statement continued: “Following last night’s incident all team hotels went into lockdown and teams, match officials and staff were all quickly accounted for.

“The enhanced security around venues implemented following the Manchester attack remains in place, and this includes significantly enhanced police and security presence for today’s match.

“The security situation has been very much front and centre of our preparations, and we constantly review our procedures to guarantee they are as effective as possible to keep everyone safe.”

England’s next fixture is against New Zealand in Cardiff on Tuesday while Australia meet Bangladesh at The Oval on Monday – with the two teams set to train at the venue on Sunday. A Cricket Australia spokesman said: “As with the rest of the world, the Australian team is shocked and saddened at the events that have occurred in London overnight and our thoughts are with those directly involved and their loved ones.

“The team, support staff and travelling contingent have been accounted for . Our security team is working closely with the ICC and LOC to ensure the safety and security of our players and support staff is paramount.

“At this stage we are comfortable with the level of security being provided to us and will continue to monitor the situation.”

The ECB tweeted: “Our thoughts go to all of those affected by last night’s shocking events in London along with our admiration for those supporting them.”

South Wales Police said events in Cardiff Bay following Saturday night’s Champions League final would go ahead as planned.

“Our thoughts are with the people affected by the events in London last night,” assistant chief constable Richard Lewis said in a statement.

“The UCL festival continues and we would like to reassure people that plans in place for today remain significant and people will continue to see a large police presence throughout Cardiff.”

Captain Sam Warburton says the thoughts of the British and Irish Lions, who played the first match of their New Zealand tour on Saturday, are with those affected.

“The guys have woken up to some news of some unfortunate events that happened in London,” he said.

“I just wanted to wish those involved all the best wishes from the Lions players and management.

“Our thoughts are always with the people back home in Britain and Ireland . Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the families and people involved in that incident.”

England’s football team, who are preparing for games in Scotland and France, expressed their condolences on social media.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the victims and their families and friends following the attacks in London on Saturday evening,” England tweeted. Arsenal and Tottenham were among the London clubs to post their sympathies.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by last night’s attack #LondonBridge,” Arsenal said.

Spurs posted: “The thoughts of everyone at the club are with all those affected by the tragic events in London last night.”

In Saint Etienne Team Sky lined up at the front of the peloton for a minute’s silence on the start line of the Criterium du Dauphine, where Chris Froome is this week bidding for a record fourth overall victory as he tests his form for the Tour de France. Speaking to the event website about the attacks, Froome said: “Of course it’s pretty scary . It’s close to home for a lot people .

It’s something happening far too regularly these days .

From our point of view, as a team, our sympathy goes to everyone affected by this attack.”

Airport shooting reignites security debate before French election

PARIS Police questioned and then released relatives of a man shot dead at a Paris airport, as investigators sought clues on why he attacked an army patrol in an incident that has pushed security to the forefront of France’s election campaign.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said late on Saturday that the man, named as 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, had shouted he was there to “die for Allah” when he tried to seize a gun from a woman air force member on patrol at Orly airport.

After throwing down a bag containing a can of petrol and putting an air pistol to the head of the soldier, he was shot three times by her colleagues.

More than 230 people have died in France in the past twoyears at the hands of attackers allied to the militant Islamist group Islamic State, making security a key issue in the two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

Emmanuel Macron, the centrist frontrunner, told France 2 television on Sunday it was “essential” to maintain the current state of emergency, in force since November 2015 . He reiterated that he would strengthen military operations and intelligence against Islamist militants.

Conservative Francois Fillon said France was in a “situation of virtual civil war” and spoke out against the idea of lifting the state of emergency, as floated by the justice minister last week.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, running on an

anti-immigration, anti-European Union ticket, told a rally that the government was “overwhelmed, stunned, paralysed like a rabbit in the headlights.”

IN AND OUT OF PRISON

Belgacem, who had been in and out of prison for theft and drug offences according to judicial sources, was already on the authorities’ radar . They said he became a radicalised Muslim when he served a prison term several years ago for drug-trafficking.

He had been reporting regularly to police under the terms of a provisional release from custody, and did not have the right to leave the country.

Several hours before he was killed, Belgacem had shot and wounded a police officer with his air pistol when he was stopped for a routine traffic check north of Paris, officials said . He then fled the scene.

He later entered a bar where he was a regular customer in Vitry-sur-Seine on the other side of Paris, and opened fire with his air gun without hitting anyone . He also stole a car before arriving at the airport.

Belgacem’s father, who was initially detained by police but released late on Saturday, denied his son had been involved in terrorism.

“My son has never been a terrorist . He has never prayed: he drinks . And, under the influence of alcohol and cannabis, this is what happens,” the father, whose name was not given, told Europe 1 radio.

He said he had received a phone call from his son in which Belgacem referred to shooting the police officer, saying: “I ask your forgiveness . I screwed up with a policeman.”

An autopsy showed the presence of cannabis and cocaine in Belgacem’s body, as well as an alcohol blood level of 0.93 grams per litre, a judicial source said on Sunday.

The legal limit for alcohol while driving in France is 0.5 g/l.

An earlier search of Belgacem’s home had found several grams of cocaine, the prosecutor said.

Belgacem was born in Paris, according to the prosecutor . French media said his family was of Tunisian origin.

A brother and cousin of Belgacem were also questioned by police and then released on Sunday, the judicial source said.

(Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Sandra Maler)