British police launch new raids as security service launches probe on 'warnings' made about bomber

Police officers carry a plastic evidence bag containing items outside the entrance of a property they entered in the Moss Side area of Manchester on May 27, 2017 during an operation.
Police officers carry a plastic evidence bag containing items outside the entrance of a property they entered in the Moss Side area of Manchester on May 27, 2017 during an operation. PHOTO: AFP

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom - Police launched fresh raids and arrested two more people on Sunday (May 28) in connection with the Manchester bombing, as thousands defied the terror threat to take part in the city's annual half marathon, AFP reported. 

Six days after 22-year-old Salman Abedi launched his attack on a pop concert, killing 22 people, a British minister said that members of the suicide bomber's network could still be a large.

After raiding various addresses in the north-western English city, police arrested two men aged 25 and 19, bringing the number now detained on British soil to 13. Authorities in Libya have also detained Abedi's brother and father. 

The Daily Mail reported that among those arrested in Britain were a chemical engineering student and his brother. They were identified as Mohamed and Yahya Werfalli, the paper said. It reported that the two university students were also, like Abedi, British born but of Libyan heritage. They were believed to have been in the same "friendship circles" as Abedi, the paper said. 

It was also reported that the Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 would hold an inquiry into how it responded to warnings from the public made about Abedi, who was seen as a potential threat. The move came after it emerged that security services had thrice been alerted to Abedi's extremist views.

Asked by the BBC if some of Abedi's network were still at large, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "Potentially."

"The operation is still really at full-tilt in a way and so until the operation is complete we can't be entirely sure that it's closed."

Abedi was known to British security services before the bombing, the government has said, but Rudd declined to comment on exactly what had been known about him.

Media have reported that people who knew Abedi had raised concerns about him and his views as long ago as five years before he carried about Monday's attack.

"The intelligence services are still collecting information about him, but I wouldn't rush to conclusions, as you seem to be, that they have somehow missed something," Rudd said.

The Guardian reported on Sunday that the MI5 had launched two urgent inquiries into how the threat posed by Abedi had been overlooked by security services following claims that his interest in terrorism had been repeatedly reported to authorities. One review that was aimed at identifying any major errors was started last week while another more in-depth inquiry was also being conducted, The Guardian reported, citing sources. 

Manchester-born Abedi, of Libyan origin, injured more than 100 people when he detonated his explosive as concertgoers left a show by US teen idol Ariana Grande. A third of those killed were children.

British investigators appealed to the public late Saturday for details of the bomber's movements in the days before the attack, which has been claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group.

Police released photographs from security cameras showing Abedi on the night of the massacre, wearing jeans and trainers, a black bodywarmer and a baseball cap, with the straps of his backpack visible on his shoulders.

The police statement said one of the last places he went to before the attack at the Manchester Arena venue was a city centre flat, where they believe he may have finished assembling the device.

DON'T LET THEM WIN

Security was highly-visible as 40,000 runners took to Manchester's streets for the Great Manchester Run a day after Prime Minister Theresa May lowered the terror threat level, which had been hiked after Monday's carnage.

Competitors gathered at the start line and fell silent as the clocks struck 9am (4pm Singapore time). This was followed by sustained applause as the song Don't Look Back In Anger by Manchester band Oasis was played over the tannoy, sparking a sing-a-long.

"After everything that's happened in Manchester, to get everyone to come together, stand united, don't let them win, that's why I'm doing it," runner Ian McLellan, 45, told AFP.

British counter-terror chief Mark Rowley said Friday that police had captured "a large part of the network" linked to the bombing.

Investigators say they have a 1,000-strong team working "around the clock" on the probe and have significant details on Abedi's associates and movements, his finances, and how the explosive was built.

Britain on Saturday reduced its terror threat level from critical - its highest level - to severe.

"We should be clear about what this means: A threat level of severe means an attack is highly likely, the country should remain vigilant," Prime Minister May said.

Operation Temperer, which involved the deployment of troops on patrol alongside police, will be wound down on Monday night, at the end of the bank holiday weekend.

23,000 ON UK TERROR RADAR

May has seen her polling lead against the Labour party's Jeremy Corbyn dwindle as campaigning restarted ahead of a June 8 general election, with her rival accusing her of overseeing a cut in police staff while she was interior minister.

From 2009 to 2016, the number of police officers fell by almost 20,000, or around 14 percent, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank.

May argues that the government has increased funding for security and intelligence agencies.

Authorities are currently handling 500 terror-related investigations into 3,000 individuals, with another 20,000 people on the radar posing a "residual risk".

May attempted to hit back late Saturday, announcing the new "Commission for Countering Extremism" and saying that "enough is enough - we need to be stronger and more resolute in standing up to these people".

The commission will have a legal responsibility to identify extremism and will advise the government about what policies and laws to enact in order to defeat extremists.

The family of Georgina Bethany Callander, an 18-year-old killed in the bombing, released a tribute late Saturday in which they called on the government to "open its eyes" to prevent further tragedy.

"I wish I could say that Georgina is one of the last to die in this way but unless our government opens its eyes we know we are only another in a long line of parents on a list that continues to grow," said the family in a statement.

The "We Love Manchester Emergency Fund", launched by the city council and the British Red Cross, had reached £5.65 million by Sunday.

The bombing was the latest in a series of IS-claimed attacks in Europe that have coincided with a US-led offensive against the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

 

Related Stories: