MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP, REUTERS) – British police released a picture of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi on Monday (May 29) that showed him wheeling a blue suitcase on the day of the suicide attack last week, asking the public to come forward with information as their investigation continues.
Abedi killed 22 people in a suicide bombing at a concert by US singer Ariana Grande last Monday, in the deadliest militant attack in Britain for 12 years.
“We continue to track the final movements of Salman Abedi and are particularly interested in his whereabouts between 18 and 22 May 2017,” Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit said in a statement.
“We believe Abedi was in possession of this case in the days before the attack at Manchester Arena on Monday, May 22. I want to stress that this is a different item than the one he used in the attack,” he said.
As Britain’s intelligence agency questioned whether vital clues had been missed, a bell tolled in Manchester on Monday at the exact time when Abedi struck the week before.
Hundreds braved the rain in the north-west English city for a silent vigil at 2131 GMT (5.31am Singapore) amid floral tributes, candles and teddy bears to honour the victims, who included six children.
Meanwhile, the number of people detained in Britain rose to 14, following an arrest early Monday morning.
The attack took place at one of Europe’s biggest indoor arenas in central Manchester. Many of the victims were either young concert-goers or parents waiting to take their children home.
A total of 116 people were injured in the attack, by the Manchester-born Abedi, a university dropout of Libyan origin, 19 of whom remain in critical condition.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“You tried to destroy us but you’ve brought us closer together,” read one message of defiance left among the tributes in central Manchester, which included heart-shaped balloons and runners’ bibs left by participants in a half-marathon on Sunday.
Investigators meanwhile pushed ahead with their probe. Police could be seen conducting a search at a rubbish tip near Manchester.
Another new image of Abedi also emerged after the BBC said it had obtained footage of Abedi in a convenience shop the day before the bombing. The BBC said the shop was located close to a flat he was at hours before the attack.
Abedi is believed to have returned from a trip to Libya a few days before the bombing and had also recently transited through airports in Istanbul and Dusseldorf in Germany.
The latest person held was a 23-year-old man arrested in the southern coastal town of Shoreham-by-Sea, more than 400km from Manchester.
Fourteen men are now detained on British soil in the investigation, while Abedi’s father and brother have been held in Libya, where officials said the two brothers were ISIS terrorists. None of the men arrested in Britain have so far been charged with any crime and police have up to 14 days in which to do so under special anti-terrorism laws.
MI5 PROBE IS ‘RIGHT’
Amid mounting criticism of the security services, the domestic intelligence agency MI5 is looking at decisions taken in the case of Abedi, who used to be on a terror watchlist but was no longer on it at the time of the attack, and whether warnings about his behaviour were ignored.
“There is a lot of information coming out at the moment about what happened, how this occurred, what people might or might not have known,” Britain’s interior minister Amber Rudd told Sky News.
“It is right that MI5 take a look to find out what the facts are,” she added.
British media have reported that two people who knew Abedi made separate calls to an anti-terrorism hotline to warn the police about his extremist views.
The Mail on Sunday also cited a source saying that US federal agents had been investigating Abedi since mid-2016 and had flagged up concerns to MI5.
The BBC reported that Abedi had taken part in the armed uprising against Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s regime as a teenager during school holidays.
TROOP DEPLOYMENT WOUND DOWN
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday lowered the terror threat level, which had been hiked in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s attack.
Operation Temperer, which involved the highly unusual deployment of armed troops on Britain’s streets, was also being wound down on Monday night.
Cuts in police force numbers made while May was interior minister have become a focus for the campaign ahead of a general election on June 8 and polls have shown her ruling Conservatives’ strong lead over the opposition Labour Party shrinking in recent days.
From 2009 to 2016, the number of police officers fell by almost 20,000, or around 14 per cent.
May argues that the government has increased funding for security and intelligence agencies.
“What we had to do when we came into government in 2010 was to ensure that we were living within our means,” May said when pressed about the cuts by a police officer during a televised question and answer session on Monday.