More Raids in Manchester; Soldiers Protecting Key UK Sites

JILL LAWLESS, GREGORY KATZ

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — British security forces arrested three more suspects and raided a building Wednesday in central Manchester as they investigated the deadly concert bombing. Hundreds of soldiers were sent to secure key sites across the country, including Buckingham Palace and the British Parliament at Westminster.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the bomber, identified as British-born ethnic Libyan Salman Abedi, “likely” did not act alone when he killed 22 people and wounded dozens at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. She said he had been known to security forces “up to a point.”

Many at the concert were young girls and teens enthralled by Grande’s pop power — and those who died included an 8-year-old girl.

Officials are examining Abedi’s trips to Libya and Syria as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats. The government said nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed Wednesday instead of police in high-profile sites in London and elsewhere.

Britain raised its threat level from terrorism to “critical” after an emergency government meeting late Tuesday amid concerns that the 22-year-old Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack.

Suicide bomber Abedi was born in Britain to a Libyan family, grew up in Manchester’s southern suburbs and once attended Salford University there. Police said three men were arrested Wednesday in south Manchester, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and at least two homes were searched.

Heavily armed police raided an apartment building in Manchester on Wednesday afternoon and a controlled explosion was heard. The building, Granby House, is popular with students and young professionals.

Muye Li, a 23-year-old student who lives on the third floor, said he heard an explosion as police stormed an apartment on his floor. He said officers knocked on his door and “asked me if I had seen the lady next door,” so he thinks they were looking for a woman.

Across London, troops fanned out and authorities reconsidered security plans.

The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was canceled Wednesday so police officers can be re-deployed, Britain’s defense ministry said. The traditional ceremony is a major tourist attraction in London.

The Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, was also closed Wednesday to all those without passes, and tours and events there were cancelled until further notice. Armed police were also seen on patrol outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, another popular tourist spot.

“(The goal) is to make our city as hostile an environment as possible for terrorists to plan and operate,” said London Police Commander Jane Connors.

The Chelsea soccer team announced it would cancel Sunday’s victory parade in London that was to have celebrated the team’s Premier League title win this season.

“We are sure our fans will understand this decision,” the team said, adding that the parade would have diverted police from the bombing investigation.

Police on Tuesday raided Abedi’s house in Manchester, using a controlled explosion to blast down the door. Neighbors recalled him as a tall, thin silent young man who often wore traditional Islamic dress.

Early Wednesday, Manchester police arrested a man at a house just a 10-minute walk from Abedi’s home.

Omar Alfa Khuri, who lives across the street, said he was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by a loud noise and saw police take away the father of the family that lives there in handcuffs. He said the man is named Adel and is in his 40s, with a wife and several children.

“There was a policeman, armed policeman, shouting at my neighbor … and I realized there is something wrong here,” he said. “They arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared.”

He said he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque but “in the last 15 years, I haven’t seen him in trouble at all. I haven’t seen police come to his house.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting Wednesday of her emergency security cabinet group to talk about intelligence reports on Abedi and concerns that he might have had outside support.

Officials are probing how often Abedi had traveled to Libya, which has seen an eruption of armed Islamist groups since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

France’s interior minister said Abedi is believed to have traveled to Syria and had “proven” links with the Islamic State group. British officials, however, have not commented on whether Abedi had links to IS or other extremist groups.

Rudd said Britain’s increased official threat level will remain at “critical” as the investigation proceeds and won’t be lowered until security services are convinced there is no active plot in place.

She also complained about U.S. officials leaking sensitive information about Abedi to the press. Rudd said Britain’s operational security could be harmed by the leaks, taking “the element of surprise” away from security services and police.

“I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” she said.

In addition to those killed in the concert bombing, Manchester officials raised to 119 the number of people who sought medical treatment after the attack.

Sixty-four people are still hospitalized, Jon Rouse of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said Wednesday. Officials say 20 of them are being treated for critical injuries.

Many had serious wounds that will require “very long term care and support in terms of their recovery,” Rouse said.

Officials said all the dead and wounded had been identified. But Greater Manchester Police said it could not formally name the victims until forensic post-mortems were concluded, which could take four to five days. It said all the affected families have been contacted and trained officers are supporting them.

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Katz reported from London. Sylvia Hui in London, Rob Harris in Manchester and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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