British counter-terror police, intel agencies probe Manchester attack

At least 19 killed, over 50 injured in suspected suicide bombing at conclusion of US singer Ariana Grande’s music concert in arena

Police work at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig in Manchester, England Monday, May 22, 2017.  (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
Police work at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig in Manchester, England Monday, May 22, 2017. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

British police said they were working with counter-terror officers as well as UK intelligence agencies to probe a suspected suicide bombing that killed at least 19 people and injured over 50 in Manchester on Monday night outside the venue of a concert where US pop star Ariana Grande had performed.

“We are currently treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” the Greater Manchester Police said, adding that the wounded were being treated at six hospitals around the city.

It was not clear how many people were still missing or unaccounted for as loved ones launched social media pleas for information.

Police said Tuesday morning they are still gathering information about the incident and were setting up a telephone hot line to help people locate family and friends.

The 23-year-old Grande, true to her youthful fan base, many tweens and teens, is a social media phenomenon with 105 million followers on Instagram and 45.6 million followers on Twitter. Her fans, proud “Arianators,” were among those who took to Twitter with prayers and tears.

Hours after the incident, the star tweeted that she was “broken” by the attack and “so, so sorry.”

The explosion happened just moments after the concert ended, just outside the Manchester Arena venue, at around 10:30 p.m. local time.

A fleet of ambulances rushed to the venue and bomb disposal teams were dispatched soon after, as city residents opened up their doors to stranded concert-goers after train services were shut down.

A number of Manchester taxi services announced they were offering free rides to people trapped by the incident.

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “appalling terrorist attack,” and is set to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected,” she said in a statement.

campaigning for national elections was suspended following the attack. Britons are due to go to the polls on June 8.

Witnesses described total chaos and fear after the explosion in Manchester Arena.

Isabel Hodgins, an actress who had been attending the concert, told Sky News: “Everybody was panicking, there was pushing up the stairs. The corridor was full, it smelled of burning, there was quite a lot of smoke as we were leaving.

“It’s just shocking and we just feel very shaken up. We’re just lucky to have gotten away safely,” she said.

Majid Khan, 22, who was attending the concert with his sister, said: “A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena”.

Police carried out a controlled explosion in a small park near the venue a few hours after the blast but said the item turned out to be only abandoned clothes.

“Everyone was screaming and running,” Robert Tempkin, 22, told The Times of London. “There were coats and people’s phones on the floor. People just dropped everything.”

Elena Semino and her husband were waiting by the arena ticket office for her daughter when the explosion went off.

“My husband and I were standing against the wall, luckily, and all of a sudden there was this thing,” she told The Guardian. “I can’t even describe it. There was this heat on my neck and when I looked up there were bodies everywhere.”

Despite wounds to her neck and a leg, Semino dashed into the auditorium in search of her daughter while her husband, who had only a minor injury, stayed behind to help an injured woman. She found her daughter Natalie, 17, and her friends safe.

If the attack is confirmed as a terror assault, it will be the deadliest in Britain since July 7, 2005
when four British suicide bombers inspired by Al-Qaeda attacked London’s transport system during rush hour, killing 52 people, as well as themselves, and wounded 700.

Two months ago, in March, five people were killed and more than 50 were wounded when a man rammed his car into pedestrians on Westminster bridge in London before crashing into the fence surrounding parliament. The attacker, 52-year-old Muslim convert Khalid Mahmood, was shot dead by police at the scene.

Investigators described the lone-wolf attack as “Islamist related terrorism.”

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