Sporting events and concerts have taken place across the UK amid heightened security following the suicide bomb attack in Manchester. The Duke of Cambridge laid a wreath in tribute to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack on the pitch before the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. An accompanying note, signed by the Prince, read: “We will never fear coming together to celebrate all that unites us. “In memory of the friends and family taken from us in Manchester.”
A minute’s silence was also held to remember the 22 people killed.
Image: Wreaths were laid on the pitch at Wembley in memory of the Manchester victims
Heightened security measures were in place at the 90,000-capacity stadium, with a helicopter hovering above and officers on horseback patrolling the grounds. Arsenal won the game 2-1. More than 1,000 armed police officers were on standby in the capital as the FA Cup Final and the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham went ahead.
Image: Everyone in the stadium observed a minute’s silence
Rugby fans also observed a minute’s silence before the kick off of the final, which Exeter Chiefs won 23-20 over Wasps after extra time. Fans at both events were advised not to bring bags and to expect additional security checks and searches. Police had urged to go out and enjoy themselves over the bank holiday weekend. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley – national lead for counter-terror policing – urged Britons to go about their business as usual.
He said: “Enjoy yourselves and be reassured by the greater policing presence you will see. “We can’t let the terrorists win by dissuading us from going about our normal business.”
Image: Fans at Twickenham observe a minute’s silence before the Aviva Premiership Final
A huge security operation was also staged as the first major event took place in Manchester since the attack on Monday night. Hundreds of police officers were on duty at Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground ahead of the Corteeners concert, with 50,000 fans expected to attend. Armed police were stationed at gates and officers in high visibility jackets were in position every 50 yards on roads approaching the stadium. Airport-style security devices were used to screen visitors, with queues as tickets and bags were checked before entry.
Image: Armed police at Old Trafford Cricket Ground as fans arrive for the Courteeners concert
Iron Maiden were also set to appear at the O2 in London, and US singer Anastacia was performing at the O2 Apollo in Manchester. On Sunday, the Great Manchester Run will go ahead as planned with a large turnout expected in the wake of the attack. Nine suspects are in custody following days of intense police activity and a series of raids in Greater Manchester, Warwickshire and Merseyside.
The country’s leading counter-terror officer has said “immense” progress has been made in the probe into a suspected network linked to suicide bomber Salman Abedi.
Operation Temperer, which has seen hundreds of armed soldiers support police on the streets, will be gradually wound down from midnight on Monday after the UK’s threat level was reduced from “critical” to “severe”1.
Events in Manchester earlier in the week saw the terror threat level raised to critical by the government. Twenty two people lost their lives when a suicide bomber struck at the end of a pop concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday night. The threat level was reduced back down to severe earlier on Saturday.
There was a heavy police presence at Wembley (Photo: PA) Additional officers were deployed to the stadium (Photo: Barcroft Media) Police monitor fans arriving on Wembley Way (Photo: AFP)
Police will have an increased presence right around Wembley and outside of the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham earlier in the day. There will be a similar attention to security at the League Two and Championship play-off finals over Sunday and Monday. Metropolitan Police confirmed extra armed officers will be deployed with a full review of the security and policing operations under way.
Supporters and staff were searched as they entered the stadium (Photo: EPA) Police maintained a heavy presence at the national stadium (Photo: Getty Images Europe) Police are hopeful that the game goes by without incident (Photo: AFP)
A statement on their website read: A full review of the security and policing operations for the weekend s sporting events – the culmination of the football and rugby seasons at Wembley and Twickenham – is underway.
This will include the deployment of extra armed officers. Earlier in the week, an FA spokesperson said: Fan safety is of paramount importance and we have robust security measures in place at Wembley Stadium.
Everybody was searched as they got near to the stadium (Photo: EPA) Police remained on guard from the tube stop right to the stadium (Photo: AFP)
In collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and the local authorities there will be an enhanced security operation for all upcoming events.
All supporters are encouraged to arrive for events at Wembley Stadium as early as possible for security checks and to avoid any delays in entering the stadium.
Security was also stepped up in Scotland for the Scottish Cup final (Photo: REUTERS) There was a large police presence deployed (Photo: PA) Officers were armed with guns as they watched the arriving fans (Photo: PA)
Security was also stepped up at Hampden for the Scottish cup final, which kicked off at 3pm. Armed police were also seen monitoring the movements of the supporters as they made their way to the stadium.
Members of the terrorist network which carried out the Manchester atrocity1 may have fled to elsewhere in Britain and could have access to bomb-making material, according to security sources . Smaller towns which may not have a large armed police presence are places of particular concern. The police and security agencies had attempted, with a large measure of success, to uncover the cell which helped Salman Abedi carry out the mass murder. In the early hours of Saturday morning, Greater Manchester Police officers arrested two more men, aged 20 and 22, and carried out a controlled explosion during a series of raids in the Cheetham Hill area of the city . In the Moss Side area, residents were evacuated2 as police carried out a major search linked to the investigation .
Eleven suspects are now in custody in all and evidence, including components of explosive devices, has been recovered. But the apprehension that a few of Abedi s accomplices have managed to escape the net and may attempt to strike in another part of the country lies behind the deployment of troops across the country . The threat level being kept at its highest classification, critical, and members of the SAS being used to carry out raids in case of resistance using firearms . Special operational measures are in place to take action if necessary away from large metropolitan centres, as was seen in the arrest of one of a suspect at Nuneaton, in Warwickshire. A senior counter-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, stated that the police have got hold of a large part of the terror network .
Security has been reviewed at 1,300 events across the country, he said, and urged the public to go out as you planned and enjoy yourself over the Bank Holiday weekend . Events such as Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Hull got under way on Saturday with the visible presence of armed police officers at entrance points. But, Mr Rowley added that there still important lines of inquiry to pursue, more arrests were likely, and acknowledged that security status needs to remain at critical, for possibly as long as few more weeks.
The Independent revealed two days ago that a quantity of bomb-making material, including explosives, known to have been in possession of 22-year-old Abedi, of Libyan background, and others in the group is missing and not all of it has been found despite extensive searches. Armed police officers patrol outside Burton Constable Hall in Hull on Saturday ahead of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend (PA)
The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Ian Hopkins, said: It has been an extremely challenging week, and we are still in the middle of the investigation . We have seized thousands of exhibits which are now being assessed .
I think it is fair to say there have been enormous progress with the investigation, but there is still an awful lot of work to do . One of the raids today took place at a barber shop in Moss Side which is believed to be owned by a cousin of Abedi, believed to be called Abdallah Forjani . A 38-year-old man who rented a flat to Abedi in the Blackley area is being held. Abedi left the flat in March to travel to Libya . His father, Ramadan Abedi, also known as Abu-Ismail al-Obedei, is a former member of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group ( LIFG) an extremist organisation which was banned by the UN for its links to al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks in New York .
Ramadan Abedi and a son, Hashem, 20, have been arrested in Tripoli by a militia affiliated to the country s UN backed government . Another son, Ismail, 24, was arrested and remains in custody in England. The security agencies are investigating whether Salman Abedi was indoctrinated during various visits to Libya . However there are suggestions that he had become radicalised in Manchester over a prolonged period . A mosque in Didsbury where Ramadan Abedi used to lead the call to prayers and Salman Abedi attended, has become a focus of attention.
Members of the mosque s congregation and its trustees have denied any extremist link and have condemned the Manchester attack . But there is evidence that hardline Islamists, including members of militia in Libya, have attended the mosque . A speaker featured on the mosque’s official YouTube channel described martyrdom as virtuous . There had been suggestions that Salman Abedi had also travelled to Syria . The French foreign minister, Gerard Collomb, claimed that the British security agencies believe he went on to Syria from Libya .
But a senior security source said: We think he got a few things garbled there, we know that Abedi had gone to Libya, whether he went to Syria or not remains a line of inquiry. Abedi had travelled from Tripoli, where he was visiting his parents, to Istanbul, from there to Dusseldorf and then back to the UK before he carried out his attack . Turkish security sources said there is no evidence that he had crossed from Turkey into Syria and all the indications were that he did not leave the airport either in Turkey or Germany.