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Update: Suicide bomber kills 22 people at UK concert for teenagers
[LONDON] At least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a pop concert packed with children in the northern English city of Manchester, in the worst terror incident on British soil since the London bombings of 2005.
Fifty-nine others were injured in the attack carried out by one man, who died after detonating an explosive device, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said in a televised statement. He declined to give details on the perpetrator's nationality or identity. Children were among the victims.
"This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see." said Mr Hopkins. "We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe, at this stage, the attack last night was conducted by one man. The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network." The assault took place in the middle of an election campaign, with Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party and the opposition parties saying they will suspend all activities. It's the latest in a series of attacks that have traumatized Europe since 2015 and comes just two months after a lone assailant left five people dead outside the Houses of Parliament in London.
Monday night's bombing targeted the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena after a concert by Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old US singer popular with teenagers and children. Eyewitness accounts describe shrapnel wounds consistent with a nail bomb.
Mrs May will chair a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee, which brings together ministers and security officials, at 9 am in London. "We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack," Mrs May said in an emailed statement.
The tragedy raises issues that could play into the election and, later on, Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union. Mrs May's Conservatives have regularly criticized Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for not being tough enough on terrorism, dredging up past comments he's made about IRA terrorism in the 1980s and 90s.
It's also a sharp reminder that Britain will need to renegotiate new security ties with other EU countries when it leaves the bloc. May was criticized by European leaders when she warned in March that the UK may withdraw cooperation on security if she doesn't get the kind of Brexit deal that she wants.
The bombing evoked memories of the attack in 2015 on the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, where gunmen mowed down rock fans. The concert-goers in Manchester were even younger, with some witnesses telling UK media that children as young as nine were at the event.
Witnesses told Sky News they heard a loud bang at the end of the performance. One told the BBC that parents were standing on walls screaming for their children. Hotels in the city took in children while attempts were made to trace their families.
"The concert had finished and we were all leaving and there was an explosion to our left and people started running," television actress Isabel Hodgins, who was at the show, told Sky. "It smelled of burning and there was quite a lot of smoke as we were leaving." Pictures of missing teens were posted on social media by friends and relatives trying to trace them. The injured were being treated in eight hospitals across Greater Manchester, Hopkins said.
Some concert-goers said at first they thought the explosion was caused by one of the pink balloons decorating the hall. Television footage showed scenes of panic as people scrambled to leave the site.