Manchester attack: Police hunt for Salman Abedi’s ‘network’

British authorities identified Salman Abedi as the bomber who was responsible for Monday's explosion in Manchester. Picture: AP
British authorities identified Salman Abedi as the bomber who was responsible for Monday's explosion in Manchester. Picture: AP
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  • Five arrested in connection with blast, including the father and two brothers of bomber Salman Abedi
  • Father of bomber says his son is ‘innocent’

The Manchester suicide bomber’s “network” is the focus of the huge counter-terrorism investigation into the atrocity as members of his family were detained in Libya.

Salman Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi, has been arrested in Tripoli, along with his brother Hashim, who Libyan security forces said was “aware of all the details” of the attack.

Ramadan Abedi had earlier claimed his son was innocent, saying: “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us.”

• READ MORE: Manchester Arena blast: police office among those killed by Salman Abedi

The developments came as the probe was hit by further leaks to the US media, with the New York Times releasing crime scene pictures appearing to show bomb fragments and the hiking backpack used to conceal the explosive.

In other developments on Wednesday, detectives made a further four arrests, taking the number of people in custody to five.

With Britain on critical alert for further attacks:

• Three men were arrested after police executed warrants in south Manchester overnight, while officers entered an address in the city centre using a controlled explosion on Wednesday afternoon;

• Another arrest was made later in Wigan of a man carrying a suspect package.

• France’s interior minister disclosed that the bomber is believed to have travelled to Syria and claimed he had “proven” links with Islamic State (IS);

• Almost 1,000 military personnel were being deployed around the country, including to key sites such as Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, after the official terror threat assessment was raised to critical, the highest level, indicating that a further attack may be imminent;

• Claims emerged in America, reported by NBC News, that members of the bomber’s family warned security officials Abedi was “dangerous” in the past;

• Management for US pop star Ariana Grande, whose concert had just finished when the bomb went off, said her upcoming gigs at the O2 in London had been cancelled;

• The Government announced that a minute’s silence will be held at 11am on Thursday in remembrance of those who lost their lives or were affected by the attack;

Twenty-two people were killed and dozens more seriously injured when Abedi, 22, detonated a device as fans left Manchester Arena on Monday night.

It was the deadliest terrorist incident to hit the UK since the July 7 attacks in London in 2005 and sparked a nationwide security operation amid fears further strikes could be imminent.

On Wednesday afternoon, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the level of activity in the probe is “intense” and continuing “at pace”.

Asked if officers are looking for the person who made the bomb, he said: “I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating and as I’ve said, it continues at pace, this extensive investigation is going on and activity taking place across Greater Manchester as we speak.”

The force was “confident” it had identified every victim but said they would not be formally identified until after post-mortem examinations were completed in four to five days.

Cheshire Police confirmed that one of its female officers died while off-duty at the concert but have not named her.

The BBC reported that her husband is critically ill and her two children injured.

There were reports that members of the public blew the whistle on Abedi several years ago by reporting him to the anti-terrorism hotline.

An unnamed Muslim community worker told the BBC two people who knew the attacker at college tipped off officers after he made statements “supporting terrorism” and expressing the view that “being a suicide bomber was okay”.

• READ MORE: Manchester attack: Woman buys tickets home for Scots teens

The calls are thought to have been made five years ago after Abedi left school, the community worker added.

Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee in Whitehall on Thursday morning, said Downing Street.

The meeting, bringing together senior ministers, officials, police and security agencies, will be the fourth Cobra gathering to deal with the Manchester bombing.

In response to the heightened threat, the Government has activated Operation Temperer, providing up to 3,800 troops to support the police in their security operations.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said 984 military personnel were being deployed around the country, which the Metropolitan Police said had freed up 1,000 armed officers to carry out patrols.

France’s interior minister Gerard Collomb told French television that both British and French intelligence services had information that the attacker had been in Syria.

Mr Collomb said: “All of a sudden he travelled to Libya and then most likely to Syria, became radicalised and decided to commit this attack.”

Ms Rudd confirmed Abedi had recently returned from a visit to Libya, and said the nature of the attack suggested he may have had support.

“It was more sophisticated than some of the horrific events that we have seen in the past or in other parts of Europe so people are reasonably wondering whether he did this on his own,” she said.

IS claimed responsibility for the barbaric attack, which involved a home-made device packed with nuts and bolts which exploded in the venue’s foyer as thousands of young people were leaving.