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Manchester Arndale evacuated as UK on alert

Manchester’s Arndale Centre has been evacuated, with people seen running away screaming and witnesses saying a man was arrested by armed police.

“Security guards and police who were armed shouted at people to get away,” said Sky’s Mike McCarthy, at the scene. “At least 100 people came round the corner – many of them screaming and trying to get away.” Some people fell over in the rush to get away and police with sniffer dogs went inside the shopping centre, said McCarthy. Police said they do not think it was related to the incident at Manchester Arena and the centre has now reopened.

Image: Some people were in tears as the shopping centre was evacuated

The evacuation happened around 12 hours after a bomb attack killed 22 people at a concert at the arena.1 :: Live updates – Manchester attack2 Extra armed police are on UK streets after the attack, with a high state of alert seeing a suspicious item blown up in Manchester in the early hours.

Image: People leave the Arndale Centre after it was evacuated

A controlled explosion took place just after 1.30am in Cathedral Gardens, near the site of the attack, but it later turned out to be a pile of abandoned clothing.

:: Security services think they know who bomber is3 Another suspicious item sparked an evacuation of London’s Victoria coach station around 6.40am. Passengers were moved to the end of the street as the area was cordoned off and buses diverted . However, the alert was called off shortly after 8am.

Image: Cars arriving at Manchester United’s training ground were also searched

Manchester United players arriving at the team’s Carrington training ground have also had their cars searched. Security staff used mirrors to check underneath vehicles and opened up the boots. The team are getting set for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.

:: Manchester Arena witness: ‘It was absolute carnage’4

A “mix of armed and unarmed officers” were called up for the rush hour in London, with Met Police chief Cressida Dick saying they would “continue for as long as is needed”. Police Scotland said more armed officers would be at “transport hubs and crowded places”. Policing in crowded places is also being reviewed in the West Midlands, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. Extra armed officers were called up in London and other cities after the Westminster attack in March and the Berlin attack in December. The threat from international terrorism in the UK remains “severe” – as it has been since August 2014 – meaning an attack is highly likely.

References

  1. ^ bomb attack killed 22 people at a concert at the arena. (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ Live updates – Manchester attack (news.sky.com)
  3. ^ Security services think they know who bomber is (news.sky.com)
  4. ^ Manchester Arena witness: ‘It was absolute carnage’ (news.sky.com)

Security services believe they know bomber’s ID

The security services believe they know the identity of the man behind the Manchester suicide bombing, Theresa May has said. Speaking outside Downing Street after chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency COBRA committee, the Prime Minister said the city had fallen victim to a “callous terrorist attack”. She said the blast at Manchester Arena, which left 22 people dead1, was “among the worst terrorism we have experienced in the United Kingdom”. :: Live updates: Manchester attack2

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. 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). 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 they know who he is, databases will be scoured . Was he 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.

More follows…

References

  1. ^ which left 22 people dead (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ Live updates: Manchester attack (news.sky.com)

Turkey puts 200 suspected military coup plotters on trial amid heavy security

ANKARA Turkey put on trial 200 suspects on Monday including senior military officers accused of plotting and orchestrating last year’s failed coup, in a court case where prosecutors are calling for life sentences.

The defendants, among them President Tayyip Erdogan’s aide-de-camp, the former head of Turkey’s air force, and dozens of generals, colonels and majors, were paraded on their way to court past dozens of protesters who demanded the death penalty and threw nooses towards them.

Around 1,500 security personnel were deployed for security at the trial, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, which was held in a purpose-built courthouse in Sincan on the outskirts of the Turkish capital.

More than 240 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the failed coup on July 15, 2016, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, bombing the parliament and attempting to overthrow the government.

Those on trial in Sincan included core suspects behind the coup who raided the state broadcaster and forced the presenter to read out an announcement saying the army had taken over and Turkey was being run by a committee they called “Peace at Home”.

Erdogan blames Fetullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric and a former ally, and his global network for orchestrating the coup, a charge Gulen denies . Turkish authorities have arrested nearly 50,000 people over alleged links with the preacher.

At the start of the hearing, families of the victims attending the trial screamed at the defendants, and one woman in the courtroom, whose son was killed during the coup, broke down.

“Kill these traitors, the murderers of my son,” she screamed before fainting . The judge called for a medical team to be brought into the courtroom.

From a total of 221 defendants, more than 200 are from the military and more than half of those were officers who held ranks from captains up to generals . All but 12 of the suspects, who are still at large, appeared in court . Gulen, who is among the defendants, is among those being tried in absentia.

Following confirmation of the suspects’ identity and the reading of a summary of the roughly 2,000-page indictment, suspects will be able to put forward their defence.

Hearings at the trial, one of the largest of several coup-related trials taking place across Turkey, are expected to last until June 16.

Citing the coup attempt as a grave threat to the state, Turkish authorities have also sacked or suspended around 150,000 civil servants, teachers, judges, prosecutors, police and soldiers and have shut down around 150 media outlets.

While the detentions may have been supported by some Turks in the immediate aftermath of the abortive putsch, criticism mounted as arrests widened to include groups of which many deny any connection to Gulen.

Many relatives of those detained or sacked since July say they have nothing to do with the armed attempt to overthrow the government, and are victims of a purge designed to consolidate Erdogan’s control.

(Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Dominic Evans and Raissa Kasolowsky)