MI5 launches internal probe as new photo of Abedi released

As the number of people detained in Britain rose to 14 following an arrest early in the morning, police released CCTV images of 22-year-old attacker Salman Abedi carrying a large suitcase and appealed for information about the luggage.

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Manchester City Council has called a vigil in the centre of the northwest England city for 2131 GMT — the exact moment that Abedi detonated his bomb outside a pop concert by teen idol Ariana Grande in one of Europe’s biggest indoor arenas.

The names of the victims, including six under the age of 18, were read out in front of the city’s town hall earlier on Monday before hundreds of people at an annual religious ceremony.

A nearby square was packed with floral tributes and heart-shaped balloons, as well as runners’ bibs left by participants in a half-marathon on Sunday.

“You tried to destroy us but you’ve brought us closer together,” read one message of defiance.

This is a handout photo taken from CCTV by Greater Manchester Police of Salman AbediGreater Manchester Police

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Investigators pushed ahead with their probe of the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Police officers could be seen conducting a search at a rubbish tip near Manchester and released images of Abedi carrying a blue suitcase hours before the attack, asking the public where and when they might have seen him with it in the preceding days.

“We have no reason to believe the case and its contents contain anything dangerous, but would ask people to be cautious,” the police said in a statement, stressing that the suitcase was different from the backpack Abedi used in the attack.

Abedi is believed to have returned from a trip to Libya a few days before the bombing.

Authorities also arrested a 23-year-old man in the southern coastal town of Shoreham-by-Sea, more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Manchester.

Fourteen men are now detained on UK soil in the investigation, while Abedi’s father and brother have been held in Libya, where officials said the two brothers were IS jihadists.

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MI5 probe is ‘right’

Amid mounting criticism of the security services, MI5 are 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 said, adding: “We shouldn’t rush to make any conclusions at this stage”.

Two people who knew Abedi made separate calls to an anti-terrorism hotline to warn the police about his extremist views, British media have reported.

The Mail on Sunday also cited a source saying US federal agents had been investigating Abedi since the middle of 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.

At the weekend British investigators released pictures of a black-clad Abedi taken from CCTV on the night of the massacre, and appealed to the public for help in tracing his movements in the days before.

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.

None of the men arrested have so far been charged with a crime and police have up to 14 days in which to do so under special anti-terrorism laws.

Station reopening

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, will also be wound down on Monday night.

In another sign of a lowering of security tensions, Victoria Station in Manchester, a major transport hub which was next to the blast site and has been shut since the tragedy, is due to reopen on Tuesday.

“Victoria Station’s reopening is an important statement about our city’s recovery from this devastating attack,” Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said.

Investigators said they have a 1,000-strong team working on the probe and have significant details on Abedi’s associates and movements, his finances, and how the bomb was built.

But 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 strong lead against the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn shrinking in recent days.

From 2009 to 2016, the number of police officers fell by almost 20,000, or around 14 percent.

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

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