Police activity at an address on Elsmore Road, in connection with the concert blast at the Manchester Arena, in Manchester, England, Wednesday May 24, 2017. British police say officers investigating the Manchester Arena concert blast have arrested a fifth suspect, and are assessing a package the suspect was carrying. Greater Manchester Police said the suspect was detained in Wigan, a town to the west of Manchester. ( Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

Police chief: Manchester searches turn up valuable info

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Home searches across Manchester have uncovered important items for the investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester’s police chief announced Thursday. A British official said Manchester police have decided not to share further information on the probe with the United States due to leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the eight suspects detained so far were “significant” arrests and said the searches will take several more days to complete. Police have swooped in on multiple addresses in the northwestern city since Tuesday and those arrested include bomber Salman Abedi’s brother Ismail.

Hopkins did not elaborate on the material that has been found so far.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to discuss the leaks with President Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels. She said she plans to “make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

British officials are particularly angry that photos detailing evidence about the bomb used in the Manchester attack were published in The New York Times, although it’s not clear that the paper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.

British police and security services were also upset that Abedi’s name was apparently leaked by U.S. officials and published while British police were withholding it – and while raids were underway in Manchester and in Libya, where the bomber’s father lives.

A British official told The Associated Press on Thursday that police in Manchester have decided to stop sharing information about their bombing investigation with the U.S. until they get a guarantee that there will be no more leaks to the media. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Earlier, the Greater Manchester Police condemned the investigation leaks on behalf of the National Counter-Terrorism Policing units in a statement that suggested a severe rupture in trust between Britain and the United States, which have traditionally shared information at the highest level.

“When the trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their family,” the statement said. “This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”

May insisted Thursday that progress is being made in the Manchester bombing investigation but added the national threat level remains critical – meaning another attack may be imminent.

“The public should remain vigilant,” May said, speaking after a meeting of the government’s crisis committee.

As hundreds of British soldiers protected some of the world’s most visited tourist sites in London and elsewhere, police are pressing to uncover the network that is thought to have helped Abedi in the deadly attack Monday night at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, many across Britain fell silent and bowed their heads for a minute in tribute to the victims of Monday night’s bombing. Crowds gathered at well-known sites including London’s Parliament and Trafalgar Squares and Manchester’s Albert Square.

Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, visited Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital on Thursday to talk to some of the bombing victims, their families and the medical staff treating them.

“It’s dreadful. Very wicked, to target that sort of thing,” the 91-year-old monarch told 14-year-old Evie Mills and her parents.

She also chatted and shook hands with hospital staff, and told the father of another injured teenager at the hospital: “It’s not something you expect at all.”

In addition to those killed, 116 people have received medical treatment at Manchester hospitals for wounds from the blast. The National Health Service says 75 people have been admitted to eight hospitals, “including 23 patients currently receiving critical care.”

The Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs announced they have jointly pledged 1 million pounds ($1.29 million) to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

In a speech Thursday in Berlin, former U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the bombing, saying it was “a reminder that there is great danger and terrorism and people who would do great harm to others just because they’re different.”

Mohammed Fadl, a spokesman for Libyan expatriates in Manchester, said Salman’s family is well known in the community, especially his elder brother Ismail, but said Salman “was not socially involved in the community activities.”

“Very few people in the community here were close to him and therefore Salman’s fanaticism wasn’t something the community was aware of,” he told the AP.

He said he heard that Salman’s father took the son’s passport away amid concerns about his son’s close ties to extremists and criminals, but had no proof of that.

Manchester has the largest gathering of Libyan expatriates in all of the U.K., Fadl said, adding that the community held a meeting Wednesday night on combating radicalism.

“Parents expressed fears of this danger, and agreed to take measures to help youths get more integrated in the community while making sure that future visits to Libya take place as families, and not as individuals,” Fadl said.

On the investigation front, Greater Manchester Police say two men were arrested overnight in Manchester and in the Withington area south of the city. Officers also raided a property in the city’s Moss Side neighborhood early Thursday and carried out a controlled explosion.

A German magazine, meanwhile, reported that British police informed their German counterparts that Abedi had received paramilitary training in Syria. It also said he passed through Duesseldorf airport four days before the concert attack.

Citing unnamed federal security sources, Focus reported that Salman Abedi twice flew from a German airport in recent years and wasn’t on any international watch list.

A German security official told the AP on Thursday the report was accurate. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information hadn’t been cleared for public release.

Focus reported that German authorities are now trying to determine whether Abedi had contact with Islamic extremists in Germany before flying to Manchester last week. It says he previously flew from Frankfurt to Britain in 2015.

The bomber’s father, Ramadan Abedi insisted Wednesday in an interview with the AP that Salman had no links to militants, saying “we don’t believe in killing innocents.”

He and another of his sons, Hashim, were taken into custody Wednesday in the Libyan city of Tripoli.

Grande cancelled concerts that were to take place Thursday and Friday in London, and in several other sites in Europe.

Author: AP
Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know.
SHARE