British police arrested two more people and searched a new site in Manchester suspected of links to the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, as British authorities complained bitterly Thursday about investigation leaks by U.S. officials.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to raise the issue of the leaks with President Donald Trump in Brussels later. British officials are particularly angry that photos detailing evidence about the bomb used in the Manchester attack were published in The New York Times.
British security and law enforcement officials were reviewing whether other sensitive information involving the investigation should be shared, according to one official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.
The official added that the intelligence-sharing agreement between Britain and the United States is built on trust and that leaks jeopardize active investigations.
Greater Manchester Police condemned the leaks on behalf of the National Counter-Terrorism Policing units in a statement that suggested a severe rupture in trust between Britain and the United States, who have traditionally shared intelligence at the highest levels.
“When the trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their family,” the statement said. “This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”
British police and security services are also upset that the name of British bomber Salman Abedi was apparently leaked by U.S. officials and published while police in Britain were withholding the name for operational security.
The bomber’s name was allegedly released by U.S. officials just as raids were underway both in Manchester and in Libya where the bomber’s father lives.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd complained the leaks could cost police “the element of surprise” in their bid to prevent future attacks.
British officials, who have also had access to sensitive information regarding past U.S.-focused investigations, are bound by the Official Secrets Act. The act prohibits them from sharing sensitive information regarding national security but also prevents them from sharing security information involving other countries.
As hundreds of British soldiers rush to protect some of the world’s most visited tourist sites in London and elsewhere, police are pressing to uncover the network that is thought to have helped Abedi in the deadly attack.
Greater Manchester Police say two men were arrested overnight in Manchester and in the Withington area south of the city. Officers also raided a property in the city’s Moss Side neighborhood early Thursday and carried out a controlled explosion.
Eight men have now been detained in Britain connection with Monday’s attack. Those include Abedi’s brother Ismail, his father Ramadan Abedi told The Associated Press. A woman was arrested late Wednesday but was later released without charge.
The senior Abedi denied that his son Salman had links to militants, telling the AP in an interview “we don’t believe in killing innocents” before being taken into custody in Libya, along with another son, Hashim.
With Britain’s terrorism threat level at “critical,” meaning a new attack may be imminent, police are working around the clock to try to deter another atrocity.
Abedi died in Monday’s blast at an Ariana Grande concert. Grande cancelled concerts that were to take place Thursday and Friday in London, and in several other sites in Europe.
— G M Police (@gmpolice) May 24, 2017
“I think it’s very clear this is a network we are investigating,” Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said, confirming that an off-duty police officer was among those killed in the attack.
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 as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats. The government said nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed instead of police Wednesday in high-profile sites in London and elsewhere.
Britain raised its threat level from terrorism to “critical” late Tuesday amid concerns that Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack. Abedi grew up in Manchester’s southern suburbs and once attended Salford University there.
Police said three suspects were arrested Wednesday around Manchester, and Abedi’s father told The Associated Press that Abedi’s brother Ismail was arrested Tuesday in the area.
Heavily armed police raided an apartment building in Manchester on Wednesday afternoon, blasting the door open with a controlled explosion. The building, Granby House, is popular with students and young professionals. Neighbor Adam Prince said raided flat had been used as an Airbnb.
Muye Li, a 23-year-old student who lives on the same floor as the raided apartment, said he thought officers were looking for a woman because they “asked me if I had seen the lady next door.”
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 also patrolled outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, another popular tourist spot.
Timeline of events - Manchester Arena pic.twitter.com/jqiF3lI8zw
— G M Police (@gmpolice) May 24, 2017
“(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 also announced it would cancel Sunday’s victory parade in London that was to have celebrated the team’s Premier League title win.
“We are sure our fans will understand this decision,” the team said, adding that the parade would have diverted police from the bombing investigation.
Speaking Wednesday from the Libyan city of Tripoli, the father of the alleged Manchester attacker denied that his son was linked to militants or to the deadly bombing. Ramadan Abedi told the AP that when he spoke to his son Abedi five days ago, he sounded “normal.”
He said Salman was getting ready to visit Saudi Arabia for a short Umrah pilgrimage, then planned to head to Libya to spend the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with his family.
“We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us,” the elder Abedi told the AP by telephone.
He said his son last visited Libya a month-and-a-half ago.
The senior Abedi fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi’s security authorities issued an arrest warrant for him and eventually sought political asylum in Britain. Now he is a manager for the Central Security force in Tripoli.
Former Libyan security official Abdel-Basit Haroun told the AP that the elder Abedi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s, which had links to al-Qaida.
Although the LIFG disbanded, Haroun says the father belongs to the Salafi Jihadi movement, the most extreme sect of Salafism and from which al-Qaida and the Islamic State group both hail.
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, in his 40s, is named Adel and has a wife and several children.
“They arrested the father, and I think the rest of the family kind of disappeared,” Khuri said, adding that he knew the man from the neighborhood and the mosque. “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 he might have had outside support. Officials are probing how often Abedi had traveled to Libya.
France’s interior minister said Abedi is believed to have also traveled to Syria and had “proven” links with the Islamic State group.
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, saying that could take “the element of surprise” away from Britain’s 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, 20 of them with critical injuries.
Sixty-four people are still hospitalized, said Jon Rouse of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, many with serious wounds that will require “very long term care and support.”
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 will take four to five days. It said all the affected families have been contacted and are receiving support.
Michael reported from Cairo and Katz reported from London. Sylvia Hui and Paisley Dodds in London, Rob Harris in Manchester and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.