British police on Saturday released surveillance-camera images of the Manchester concert bomber on the night of the attack as they appealed for more information about his final days. Authorities said they had made major progress in unravelling the plot behind the concert bombing but acknowledged there were still gaps in their knowledge. Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch Saturday, from “critical” to “severe,” yet security remained high as jittery residents tried to enjoy a long holiday weekend. Armed police officers and soldiers were deployed at soccer matches, concerts and other big events.
Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton of Libyan descent, died in Monday’s explosion, which killed 22 others and wounded nearly 120 as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert. The photos released by police show attacker Salman Abedi on the night of the bombing, wearing sneakers, jeans, a dark jacket and a baseball cap. The straps of a knapsack are visible on his shoulders. Greater Manchester Police chief Ian Hopkins and Neil Basu, the national coordinator of counterterrorism policing, urged people to contact police if they had information about Abedi’s movements between May 18 and Monday night.
“In the past five days, we have gathered significant information about Abedi, his associates, his finances, the places he had been, how the device was built and the wider conspiracy,” they said in a statement.
“Our priorities are to understand the run-up to this terrible event and to understand if more people were involved in planning this attack.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May said “a significant amount of police activity” and several arrests had led to the level being lowered. But she urged Britons to remain vigilant and said soldiers would remain at high-profile sites throughout the weekend, and start reducing their presence beginning Tuesday. A severe threat still means an attack is “highly likely,” according to the scale set by Britain’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, Britain’s top counterterrorism police officer, said authorities have dismantled a “large part” of the network around bomber Salman Abedi.
But Rowley said there were still “gaps in our understanding” of the plot, as investigators probed Abedi’s potential links to jihadis in Britain, Europe, Libya and the Middle East.
“There will be more arrests and there will be more searches,” he said. Police made two more arrests in Manchester on Saturday on suspicion of terrorism offenses, bringing the number of suspects in custody to 11. All are men, aged between 18 and 44. In addition, Abedi’s father and younger brother were detained in Libya. Police disclosed new details about Abedi’s’ movements, saying he returned to Britain four days before the attack. His father has said Abedi was in Libya until earlier this month and had told family he planned to go to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.
Police say they think Abedi assembled his bomb at a rented apartment in central Manchester that was raided by officers Wednesday. Investigators have searched 17 properties, including Abedi’s home in south Manchester and other houses in nearby districts. Residents were evacuated from streets in the south Manchester neighborhood of Moss Side in what police called a precaution as one search was carried out Saturday. Photos showed an army bomb-disposal unit at the property.
Another place searched was an apartment in a Manchester high-rise that British media say was rented by Abedi in the months before the attack. Mohammed El-Hudarey, a friend of the landlord, said after Abedi moved out about six weeks ago there was a strong smell of chemicals and debris including metal rods and cut-up fabric.
“We thought he must have been a drug dealer or doing witchcraft,” El-Hudarey told the BBC. Armed police were on the streets outside London’s Wembley Stadium, and security guards conducted extra bag checks, as 90,000 fans arrived for the FA Cup soccer final between Chelsea and Arsenal, one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Before kickoff, Prince William laid a wreath in memory of the victims alongside Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. The stadium held a minute of silence for the bombing victims.
Arsenal fan Liz Johnson said she was “sad after what happened in Manchester. But I grew up in Ireland, so bombs did go off there and life does go on.”
“We will be thinking about all the people who died and were injured,” she said. Manchester slowly returned to normal, though the damaged arena and adjacent Victoria train station remained closed. Former U.S. President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the victims and support for those wounded in the Manchester bombing during a meeting Saturday with Prince Harry at London’s Kensington Palace.
Britain’s health service said Saturday that 63 people wounded in the bombing remain hospitalized, 20 of them in critical condition.
Grande, meanwhile, promised to return to “the incredibly brave city of Manchester” to hold a benefit concert for the victims.
“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she said. “We won’t let hate win.”
The manager of a Lexington rent-to-own store says Customer Appreciation Day was ruined after being overrun by homeless people who ate the hot dogs and hamburgers he d cooked. Jerry Paulley, regional manager for the ColorTyme store in Eastland Shopping Center, said he called Lexington police at 11:52 a.m. to get help with dispersing a hungry crowd of about 50 or 60 people who had formed a line that snaked through the store and refused to leave.
That should be serious enough to send a squad car, he said. At 12:29 p.m., he said, police called back to say they were then getting ready to send out a car.
By then, Paulley said, most of his meat had been eaten and the homeless people were gone. Lexington police Lt. Jackie Newman said police responded immediately after being notified by the dispatch center.
It looks like it was put in as a non-priority call, she said. We had no idea until it was dispatched. Robert Stack, director of Lexington s Enhanced 911 Center, said calls about violence or injury accidents take precedence.
We didn t have any units to respond, he said. The dispatchers can only send what they have. We sent them as soon as we had units available.
Paulley said he started grilling at 7:30 p.m. Friday and had cooked about 64 hot dogs and 64 hamburgers for the event. Folding tables were set up in front of the sales counter laden with bags of chips, plates of cookies and crock pots filled with burgers and hotdogs. The store had mailed postcards to its customers advertising the free food and had put a sign on the door that announced Customer Appreciation!! Customers only.
Paulley said he told the first dozen homeless patrons, who showed up at about 11:15 a.m., that they could have a plate, but, We said, Please don t go back and tell everybody else.
They didn t care, and there wasn t no getting them out of here, he said. It looked like a soup kitchen. Paulley said employees were able to save about 10 hamburgers and 20 hot dogs by hiding them in the back of the store.
We ended up having to take some of the food back what we could get away from them, he said. Paulley said the store has supported other initiatives to help people in need.
There s a time and a place, he said.
Paulley said the shopping center has a security guard who works 40 hours a week during the evenings, but at other hours merchants rely on police for security.
An overnight homeless shelter recently opened nearby.
Philippine military jets fired rockets at militant positions Saturday as soldiers fought to wrest control of a southern city from gunmen linked to the Islamic State group, witnesses said. Civilians waved flags from their windows to show they are not combatants. The city of Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has been under siege by IS-linked militants since a failed raid Tuesday night on a suspected hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists. Hapilon got away and fighters loyal to him took over parts of the city, burning buildings and seizing about a dozen hostages, including a priest. Their condition was not known. At least 44 people have died in the fighting, including 31 militants and 11 soldiers, officials say. It was not clear whether civilians were among the dead.
The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday to declare 60 days of martial law in the southern Philippines, where a Muslim rebellion has raged for decades. But the recent violence has raised fears that extremism could be growing as smaller militant groups unify and align themselves with the ideology of the Islamic State group. Although Hapilon and other groups in the southern Philippines have pledged allegiance to the IS, there is no clear sign of significant, material ties. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing.
“I saw two jets swoop down and fire at rebel positions repeatedly,” Alexander Mangundatu, a security guard, told The Associated Press in Marawi as a plume of black smoke billowed in the distance. “I pity the civilians and the women who were near the targeted area. They’re getting caught in the conflict and I hope this ends soon.”
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said government forces are working to “clear the city of all remnants of this group.”
He said some civilians refused to evacuate because they want to guard their homes, slowing down the government operations.
“But that’s fine as long as civilians are not hurt,” Padilla said. On Friday, Duterte ordered his troops to crush the militants, warning that the country is at a grave risk of “contamination” by the Islamic State group. Duterte told soldiers in Iligan, a city near Marawi, that he had long feared that “contamination by ISIS” loomed in the country’s future, using the acronym for the Islamic State group.
“You can say that ISIS is here already,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., a military commander, said civilians are enduring “extreme deprivation” because government services are unavailable and shops are closed.
“These terrorist atrocities continue to sow terror and confusion even to noncombatant Muslims and Christians,” he said in a statement. Hapilon is still hiding out in the city under the protection of gunmen who are desperately trying to find a way to extricate him, said the Philippines’ military chief, Gen. Eduardo Ano. He said Hapilon suffered a stroke after a government airstrike wounded him in January. Ano predicted that the military operation will take about a week as soldiers go house to house to clear the city of militants.
In a sign that the long-standing problem of militancy in the south could be expanding, Solicitor General Jose Calida said foreigners were fighting alongside the gunmen in Marawi, including Indonesians and Malaysians. Ano also said foreign fighters were believed to be inside, but he was more cautious. “We suspect that, but we’re still validating,” he said. Hapilon, an Islamic preacher, is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in 2014. He also heads an alliance of at least 10 smaller militant groups, including the Maute, which have a heavy presence in Marawi and were instrumental in fighting off government forces in this week’s battles.
Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Hapilon’s capture.