Manchester attack: UK lawmakers angered by US media leaks
WASHINGTON — The United States is facing growing criticism from UK lawmakers over leaks to US media about the ongoing investigation into Monday night’s deadly bombing of a pop concert in Manchester.
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told the BBC on Thursday that the leaks were “arrogant,” a day after UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said they were “irritating,” and that she had made it clear to the United States that it “should not happen again.”
Mayor: Investigation leaks are “arrogant.”
Police: Leaks could “undermine our investigations” UK terror threat remains at highest level Prime Minister chairs cabinet-level security meeting.
Fifteen victims have so far been identified.
Eight men in custody; one woman released without charge.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is to meet with US President Donald Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, later Thursday.
Burnham told the BBC she would be making her feelings clear to the US at the NATO summit, although Downing Street declined to comment to CNN.
“The cooperation between the US and the UK on intelligence matters is crucial for security around the world, so we can’t… this can’t see both sides pulling away, but that is why the Prime Minister, the government, are right to make this an issue at the summit today, and it’s why I have taken a step of speaking out too, and making my concerns known,” he said.
Burnham, a Labour mayor, also said he had spoken with the US ambassador to Britain about his concerns.
Two Labour lawmakers tweeted their concern Wednesday. Yvette Cooper said she was very troubled by the leaks amidst a “live investigation where public safety at risk,” while Lilian Greenwood asked, “What is the Government doing with US counterparts to address these breaches?”
US sources were the first to reveal the identity of the bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, leading to concern that police efforts to hunt down his associates could be impacted.
On Wednesday, The New York Times posted photos that show what it said could be the detonator, a battery, nuts and screws for shrapnel, and fragments of a backpack used in the attack.
Britain’s National Police Chiefs’ Council warned Wednesday that leaks of potential evidence “undermine our investigations.”
A Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spokeswoman did not comment to CNN on the New York Times’ photo publication. The paper, without specifying the source, said British authorities provided access to photos of materials found at the scene.
UK holds moment of silence
Monday’s attack, which came as people were leaving an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, took the lives of at least 22 people, including several children. Dozens were also wounded in the incident.
Identification of victims continues — as of Thursday morning local time 15 people who died in the blast have been named.
The family of 14-year-old Eilidh MacLeod released a statement through the police that spoke of their “devastation”. “Eilidh was vivacious and full of fun. She loved all music whether it was listening to Ariana or playing the bagpipes with her pipe band,” it said.
The grandfather of another teenage victim Sorrell Leczkowski, said he was “absolutely heartbroken” to confirm that she had died. “Sorrell was only 14, but she was our rock, she kept us all grounded. She was such a clever, talented, creative girl, there was nothing she couldn’t do,” said Michael Healy. Sorrell’s mother and grandmother were both injured, he said.
A moment of silence was held Thursday morning at 11 a.m. local time (6 a.m. ET), as the United Kingdom continued to come to terms with its worst terror attack since the 2005 London bombings. On Wednesday night, win for soccer side Manchester United in the Europa League final in Stockholm was dedicated to the victims.
The Greater Manchester Police also warned late Wednesday of fraudulent online fundraising for the families of the victims, and pointed Twitter users to a legitimate JustGiving page.
Bomber’s brother arrested in Libya
Meanwhile, investigators are focused on tracking down associates of Abedi, a British-born national of Libyan descent. “It is very clear that this is a network we are investigating,” said Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.
Two more men were arrested early Thursday morning, bringing the number in custody in connection to the bombing to eight. A woman arrested in a raid in Blackley, Manchester, was released late Wednesday without charge, police said.
New details about Abedi emerged Wednesday, including that he had been known to intelligence services, Rudd told the BBC. He had been in Libya for three weeks and returned days before his attack, US military officials told CNN.
According to a family friend who asked not to be identified, the boys’ father had taken his sons to Libya in mid-April and confiscated their passports so they couldn’t return to the UK where they’d been in trouble with gangs. Abedi got his passport back after telling his father he was going on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, but returned to England instead.
In Libya, Abedi’s brother — identified as 20-year-old Hashim Ramadan Abu Qassem al-Abedi — was arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of links to ISIS, according to a statement from a Tripoli militia known as the Special Deterrence Force.
The militia, aligned with the Libyan government, said that the younger Abedi was allegedly planning a terror attack in Libya when arrested. He was picked up while allegedly receiving a money transfer from Salman Abedi. The statement also said he left the UK in mid-April and had been under surveillance about a month and a half.
CNN has not been able to independently verify the details from the militia, which also claimed the younger Abedi admitted knowledge about the Manchester attack and was in Britain for its planning.