The Manchester Arena terrorist attack

On May 22, at 10:33pm, an explosion was heard outside the venue of the Manchester Arena, following a crowded pop concert of American singer Ariana Grande. The bombing took place as fans were exiting the building, creating mass panic as hundreds of people fled in terror, leaving carnage behind. At least 22 people have been killed and 59 injured in the suicide bombing, with the incident being immediately treated as a terrorist attack.

What do we know (so far)?

The Manchester police concluded that the bombing was carried out Salman Abedi, a 22-year old who was armed with a homemade explosive device packed with nuts and bolts, and immediately died at the site. He was born in Manchester and his parents, of Libyan origin, had come to the U.K. to escape the Gaddafi regime. Armed police then executed a controlled explosion at his semi-detached home in the city. The undergoing investigation is also being conducted by national counter-terrorism officers, and Britain’s security service, MI5, with an arrest already having been made in connection with the attack. The May 22 attack has been claimed by the Islamic State, whose supporters were quick to celebrate its occurrence online.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May chaired an emergency Cobra Committee meeting (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, the government’s crisis management center), and has suspended her election campaign for next June’s general elections, along with all parties, until further notice.

Counter-terrorist activities

While the threat level in the U.K. has been assessed as ‘severe’ for nearly three years, in recent months there has been an increase in counter-terrorist activity, to the tune of one arrest a day. Following the Westminster attack last March, authorities have warned that further attacks were highly probable, although they were believed to most likely be low-tech (e.g. using vehicles or knives). Consequently, the Manchester Arena bombing constitutes an added concern.

This was the most serious terrorist attack taking place in British soil since June 2005, when London’s transport network was crippled by a series of terrorist attacks led by al-Qaeda. The last occurrence of a terrorist explosion in Manchester took place in 1996, when the IRA set off a truck-bomb in the city’s center, sending warnings on what was to come ahead of time in order to prevent casualties. There was no such notice this time.

International reactions

Theresa May described the attack as one of “appalling, sickening cowardice”, and among the worst to ever hit the United Kingdom. Several other world leaders have voiced messages of support. Donald Trump expressed his condolences for the victims of the attack, and denounced the ‘wicked ideology’ behind the attack, which should be ‘obliterated’ to protect human life. Vladimir Putin condemned ‘vehemently’ the ‘cynical’ and ‘inhuman’ attack, and voiced his availability to develop bilateral and multilateral anti-terrorist initiatives with the U.K.. Xi Jinping sent a message to Queen Elizabeth II, where he claimed that China stood ‘firmly’ with the British people, and expressed his remorse and sympathy. Angela Merkel shared her “great sadness and shock”, and stated that the terrorist attack only reinforced Germany’s determination to fight terrorism alongside the U.K., with which her country would stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’. The newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron voiced his ‘horror’ and ‘distress’ at the Manchester Arena bombing, sending his ‘compassion’ and ‘solicitude’ to the people of Britain, while António Costa expressed Portugal’s “deepest sympathies and solidarity”. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission, sent orders for the flags outside the Barlaymont to be flown at half-mast, while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated that “fear won’t prevail”, and that “European youth will continue to enjoy their love for life, freedom, and joy, together”.

Photo by aleksejh / Public domain

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

David Ferreira

Research Assistant at CEI-IUL. Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, specialisation in International Relations (ISCTE-IUL).

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