Manchester Arena terror attack probe widens with arrests in Libya

THE FATHER of the suicide bomber who killed at least 22 people, including some children at Manchester Arena on Monday evening, identified as Salman Abedi, told Reuters in the Libyan capital on Wednesday that he had last spoken to his son some five days ago by phone and ‘everything was normal’.

Police made arrests in the UK and Libya as the investigation focused on tracking down a network of accomplices who authorities fear could strike again.

Ramadan Abedi, who was detained by a Tripoli counter-terrorism force during the interview, said his son Salman had told his family that he was heading on pilgrimage to Mecca.

‘I spoke to him about five days ago … there was nothing wrong, everything was normal,’ Abedi said.

Abedi also said he was sure Salman had not been a member of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

‘Salman doesn’t belong to any organisation,’ he said. ‘The family is a bit confused because Salman doesn’t have this ideology, he doesn’t hold these beliefs. We condemn these terrorist acts on civilians, innocent people.’

Police in Tripoli also arrested a brother of Abedi. A spokesman for the local counter-terrorism force said younger brother Hashem Abedi was arrested on suspicion of links with ISIL and was suspected of planning to carry out an attack in the Libyan capital.

A man arrested on Tuesday was reported by British and US media to be Abedi’s other brother.

Manchester police, meanwhile, made several new arrests.

‘As it stands, six men and one woman have been arrested in conjunction with the investigation and remain in custody for questioning,’ a police statement said.

Earlier, interior minister Amber Rudd said the bomber had recently returned from Libya. Her French counterpart Gerard Collomb said he had links with ISIL and had probably visited Syria as well.

Rudd also scolded US officials for leaking details about the investigation into the Manchester attack before British authorities were ready to go public.

The bomb used in the attack appeared to contain carefully packed shrapnel and have a powerful, high velocity charge, according to leaked photographs from the investigation published by the New York Times.

The official threat level in Britain was raised late on Tuesday for the first time in a decade to its highest level, ‘critical’, meaning an attack could be imminent.

British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency response committee at her Downing Street office.

Rudd said up to 3,800 soldiers could be deployed on Britain’s streets, taking on guard duties to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation. An initial deployment of 984 had been ordered, first in London and then elsewhere.

Soldiers were seen at the Houses of Parliament, May’s Downing Street residence and at the London police headquarters at New Scotland Yard.

It was the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, when four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London’s transport network.

The Manchester bombing also left 64 people wounded, of whom 20 were receiving critical care for highly traumatic injuries to major organs and to limbs.

All campaigning for Britain’s national election coming up on June 8 has been suspended since the bombing. Coverage of the attack and its aftermath has pushed out political news from the British media.

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