Police and security services believe they know the identity of the man behind the Manchester suicide bombing. Speaking outside Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency COBRA committee, the Prime Minister Theresa May said authorities are working to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a group. She said the blast at Manchester Arena, which left 22 people dead1, was “among the worst terrorism we have experienced in the United Kingdom” and that the city had fallen victim to a “callous terrorist attack”. :: Live updates: 23-year-old man arrested after Manchester suicide bombing2
The target was a pop concert, the audience was a mixture of teenagers, many of them young girls, all out for a fun and innocent evening . Some were young enough to need chaperoning by parents or grandparents. If this does turn out to be an Islamist-inspired attack, the attacker has deliberately targeted everything his warped beliefs hate in a Western society. He has also demonstrated a deadly competence – he blew himself up as the high-spirited crowd streamed out of the arena after the concert .
The timing, and location of the explosion – just outside the main arena itself – suggests planning and shows he probably carried out a recce. The singer Ariana Grande is world-famous . She has more than 45 million followers on Twitter . Another basic but twisted way of guaranteeing this attack will resonate far. :: What we know so far3 The morning after the attack, a number of things will be happening simultaneously and with urgency. In Manchester, counterterrorism police from North West Command will be carrying out forensic work at the scene of the explosion.
They will try and find bomb-making signatures that might give a clue as to who was behind this attack. They will look for certain chemicals, such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP). :: Witness: ‘It was absolute carnage’4
TATP has been used by terrorists around the world, it is a favoured compound of Islamic State and it is relatively straightforward to make, but it is extremely unstable and lethal. It has been confirmed that the attacker died on the scene – this tells us that something is left of his body. That will be important in identifying him, either facially, through fingerprints, dental records or DNA. Once the security services are confident they have the right man, databases will be scoured . Was the attacker known to the security services ? Does he have known associates? His home will be searched .
So too the homes of any close relatives or friends. People might be detained, questioned and then released . Computers will be taken away and their contents and internet history studied. GCHQ will be looking for a digital trail and if necessary MI6 will speak to foreign partners to build a picture of who this man was and who he knew. Was he acting alone, a so-called lone-wolf (unlikely with this nature of attack), did he have supporters helping him in the UK, was he being remotely ‘directed’ by a centralised body (for example IS leadership in Raqqa)? These are all questions which will have been asked by the Prime Minister as she chaired the COBRA meeting. The most pressing questions of all though – was this part of a network and should the UK prepare for a secondary attack?
COBRA (the dramatic acronym for the mundane Cabinet Office Briefing Room) is attended by key members of Government, including the home and defence secretaries, the heads of the UK’s intelligence agencies and other relevant figures. The Foreign Secretary is in Brussels so wouldn’t have been there in person but could have dialled in, if necessary. The decision to raise the national threat level is one for JTAC – the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. It sits inside MI5’s headquarters on the banks of the River Thames, and acts independent from government although with input from government officials. The threat level is currently set at “severe”, one from the top . It means an attack is highly likely. If JTAC assesses that another attack is under way or imminent, it will raise that level to the highest – “critical”.
The security services have been warning that London isn’t the only target of terrorists wishing to attack the UK. Many smaller cities might be less prepared for an incident like this, but not Manchester. MI5 has a regional base in Bury, just on the outer edges of the city.
The police armed response unit is highly trained and on the scene within minutes of the attack. Now and in the coming days, armed police will patrol Manchester city centre, partly for reassurance, partly for increased security. And then there are 22 families, the morning after, at home, mourning the death of loved ones.
“The death of these children will remain with us forever,” a member of the city council told Sky News.
Music fans have criticised security at the Manchester Arena following an explosion killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more. Ariana Grande fans were making their way out of the venue after the concert when a lone male suicide bomber detonated a blast at around 10.30pm, police have said. Witnesses described seeing smoke and smelling burning in the foyer area of the arena, while others reported glass, metal nuts and nails on the floor.
Thousands of people were forced to flee the arena after the blast was triggered.
Since the attack, fans have been tweeting about the security at the venue, with some claiming that it was possible for anyone to “walk in with things under a coat”, and others saying their bags were not checked. A Czech woman who was at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester says that there was almost no security check, rather zero . They let us get in without any check if we have anything with us. Nikola Trochtova told the Czech public radio that the only thing they were interested in was if we had any bottles of water with us . They almost didn’t check our bags, they didn’t take a look”, AP reports.
She says she was leaving the venue when she heard an explosion at the entrance, but only learned about what had happened after returning to her hotel. One woman tweeted: “The last 3 times I’ve seen a show at Manchester Arena they didn’t check my bag even though I had a backpack on.”
“For One Direction, they just kind of jiggled my bag, ‘feeling’ if there was anything harmful . Had a 1L bottle of Lucozade, didn’t open my bag.
“Didn’t even check my bag at all for Little Mix nor 5SOS, despite my bag being full and quite heavy.”
Another person wrote: “Being there at the concert in Manchester, I’m not surprised someone was able to take something into the arena . Security was horrendous.
“Only a bag check, no metal scanners or pat downs for anyone entering through the Manchester Victoria entrance of the arena.”
The Victoria entrance was where the blast occurred, in the foyer area between the arena and Victoria station next door to the venue . It is unclear whether security were present in that area of the venue.
The Independent has contacted Manchester Arena and ShowSec, a security company listed as an official supplier of the venue on its website, for comment
A pair of quick-thinking security guards at a Solihull shopping centre helped to evacuate terrified residents after a fire tore through the roof of a nearby tower block . The fearless guards at Chelmsley Wood1 Shopping Centre were on patrol when they spotted the flames and smoke coming from the top of the building in nearby Moorend Avenue. As shoppers watched the drama in horror, the brave duo sprinted across to the block, which is managed by Solihull 2Community Housing (SCH) and alerted the concierge to the danger.
Smoke from the fire in Chelmsley Wood
The plucky twosome, who would not be named, swiftly took to the stairs and banged on the doors of the flats in the 10 storey building. Residents told the Birmingham Mail they had been unaware of the blaze which could be seen for miles away after the fire took hold at around 1.45pm. Twenty-five firefighters3 tackled the incident and gave oxygen therapy to one man who was injured.
Residents from the top two floors were evacuated.
The fire at the block of flats in Moorend Avenue Chelmsley Wood (Photo: Handout)
One of the security guards said: There didn t seem to be a fire alarm in the block.
We tried to find one so that we could actually hit a panic button.
My colleague went to the top floor and I started on the fifth so we worked it between us.
We were there for about five to 10 minutes but it seemed longer.
We didn t think about it, we just went in to help . Then the fire brigade took over. Liberty Chester, who has a four year old daughter Lacie, said she didn t feel safe.
I m just glad Lacie wasn t there, she said.
If she had been she would not have gone back into the flat. The 24-year-old added: It was the security guards from the shopping centre who saw the smoke and ran over to tell us.
They tried to find the fire alarm but couldn t.
Then they began banging on all the doors to tell us.
We were waiting outside for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes.
We weren t told anything . Nobody knew what was going on.
One man was treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
Residents were allowed to return to their homes after the blaze was extinguished at about 3pm.
Chloe Moore, 18 and her mum Michelle Thomas at the scene of the fire in Chelmsley Wood
Michelle Thomas lives on the third floor and her daughter Chloe Moore lives on the top floor of the building. Michelle said: When I got there I saw a roofer who was working there . He tried to put it out himself and his arm was covered in bandages.
Chelsea Lee has lived in the block for 3 years . The 23-year-old said: Everyone looks out for each other here. Peter Stoate, a spokesman for SCH, said: We are pleased to report that the fire on the roof of Cheshunt House was quickly extinguished by the fire services .
One contractor working on the roof was treated at the scene but no tenants were injured.
Some tenants had to leave their homes for a couple of hours while safety procedures were followed but all were able to return soon afterwards.