Britain’s domestic security chief said Wednesday it was “likely” that the bomber who killed 22 people at a concert venue was not acting alone, underscoring the expanded security measures as the nation’s threat level was raised to its highest point.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd did not provide details on possible associates of the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi. But she told the BBC that security services – which had been aware of Abedi “up to a point” before the bombing – were focusing on his visits to Libya, at least one of which was very recent.
Rudd’s French counterpart, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, told broadcaster BFMTV that Abedi – whose parents emigrated from Libya – may have also gone to Syria and had “proven” links with Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Manchester blast and called Abedi a “soldier.”
A series of arrests since the Monday night attack have included Abedi’s brother, police said.
On Wednesday, British Parliament announced that “due to the raised national security threat” all public tours of the Palace of Westminster would be stopped. The Changing the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace – a popular tourist attraction – was also canceled.
The highest priority for police, said Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, was to “establish whether [Abedi] was acting alone or as part of a network.”
Earlier he had said that Abedi executed the bombing alone and that he “was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”
But unlike in previous high-profile attacks – including one in March in which an assailant driving a speeding car ran down pedestrians on a London bridge, then stabbed to death a British police officer – experts said it was unlikely that Monday’s attack had been carried out without help.
“Getting a car or a knife is easy,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the London-based Royal United Services Institute. “Making a bomb that works and goes off when you want it to go off takes preparation and practice. And it usually involves other people.”
Pantucci said British authorities “are going to try to figure out who [Abedi] knows, who he’s linked to. Did he build the bomb itself, or did someone build it and give it to him?”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Griff Witte, Karla Adam, Souad Mekhennet