Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bombing Suspect Father Arrested in Widening Manchester Investigation
 Britain raised its threat level from terrorism to “critical” after an emergency government meeting late Tuesday amid concerns that the 22-year-old Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack. (Sign up for our free video newsletter here

Christina Boyle and Matt Pearce
Los Angeles Times

The father and one of the brothers of the suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Manchester have been arrested in Libya as British investigators also carried out a series of arrests Wednesday in connection to the attack.

The suspect’s father, Ramadan Abedi, 51, had earlier protested that his British-born son who has been identified as the attacker, Salman Abedi, was innocent and had been preparing to go on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

“We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us,” the elder Abedi, 51, who is an administrative manager of the Tripoli Central Security forces, told the Associated Press in Tripoli. “We aren’t the ones who blow up ourselves among innocents. We go to mosques. We recite Koran, but not that.”

He said his son had sounded “normal” the last time he spoke to him. “There was nothing worrying at all until two days ago [when] I heard the news that they suspect he was the bomber.”

Abedi was taken away by three armed vehicles in Tripoli, the Telegraph newspaper reported.

One of his other sons, Hashem Abedi, a younger brother of the bombing suspect, was also arrested in Libya Tuesday on suspicion of having ties to the the militant group Islamic State and knowledge of the Manchester attack, Reuters reported out of Libya.

Another one of the bomber’s brothers, Ismail, was arrested in the Manchester area shortly after the Monday evening attack.

The arrests in Libya came as police made a fifth arrest in Britain on Wednesday as they investigate whether the suicide bomber was part of a larger network.

The latest arrest in Britain came in the nearby town of Wigan, when police took into custody a man who was carrying a package, according to Manchester police. Police have cordoned off the area while they investigate the package. Police have also made three other arrests in the area south of Manchester.

Meanwhile, security services continued to work around the clock to determine what motivated Salman Abedi, 22, who was born in Manchester, to blow himself up just outside the exits of the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena moments after singer Ariana Grande had finished her packed concert. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, though officials have not confirmed what role the militant group may have played, if any.

Given the nature of the attack and the bomb used — filled with nails and bolts designed to cause maximum carnage — Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Wednesday that it was “likely” the 22-year-old had not acted alone.

“It was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before,” she said.

Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins also confirmed during an afternoon news conference that it was “very clear that this is a network that we are investigating.”

Rudd said that Abedi had been known to intelligence services “up to a point” and that his recent trips to Libya, where his parents live, are being investigated.

As the identities of the victims became public, the indiscriminate toll of the bombing became clearer.

Among those killed: an 8-year-old girl, an aunt who relatives said shielded her niece from the blast, parents waiting to pick up young concertgoers and a Polish couple from York, a city in the north of England.

An off-duty female police officer also was killed in the blast. Olivia Campbell, 15, whose mother, Charlotte, put out a desperate and heartbreaking plea for information into her daughter’s whereabouts on Monday, also was confirmed among the dead.

“Go sing with the angels and keep smiling. Mummy loves you so much,” Charlotte Campbell wrote on Facebook.

Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the country’s threat level from severe to critical, and armed soldiers were visible at key locations around the country, including outside Downing Street, the houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Hundreds of soldiers were mobilizing to help protect key locations such as airports, transport hubs and nuclear plants to assist armed police.

Police said they are now confident they know the identity of all 22 victims in Manchester but autopsies would take four to five days because of the number of cases.

Authorities said that 64 people are being treated in hospitals across Manchester, 20 of whom are dealing with life-changing injuries, including “major wounds, damage to organs, embedded objects,” said Jon Rouse, chief officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

In one of a series of public events that were resuming under heavy caution, Manchester United soccer team announced it would play the Europa League final Wednesday night, although players were said to still be deeply shocked by recent events.

Players will wear black armbands and hold a minute of silence, and somber fans plan to unveil a massive banner reading: “Manchester — a city united #prayforManchester.”

Politically, there were early signs of cracks in the temporary truce that politicians had called ahead of the June 8 parliamentary elections.

Campaigning has been suspended, but the leader of the UK Independence Party announced Wednesday it would release a party manifesto on Thursday, while the Labor Party is likely to return to the campaign trail Friday, but in a low-key fashion.

“The best response we can make is to ensure that the democratic process continues,” said Paul Nuttall, leader of the UK Independence Party. “It is by prolonging the disruption to normality that we allow the terrorists to win. Politics has never been more important; politicians must deal with these issues.”

There was no indication that any of the other main parties planned to resume campaigning anytime soon.

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