MANCHESTER, England â The Islamic State claimed Tuesday that one of its âsoldiersâ carried out an apparent suicide bombing in Manchester that killed at least 22 people, including teenagers and others streaming out of a pop concert.
Greater Manchester Police Chief ConstableÂ Ian Hopkins named the suspected attacker as 22-year-old Salman Abedi but declined to provide other details.
A senior European intelligence official said the attacker was a British citizenÂ of Libyan descent. The official said the suspectâs brother has been taken into custody.
The Islamic Stateâs claim came as British investigators intensified their search for possible accomplices and police teams fanned out acrossÂ the northern city after the worst terrorist strike in Britain in more than a decade.
The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out late Monday. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.
The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous claims have not been proven.
British Prime Minister Theresa May called the carnage a âcallous terrorist attack.âÂ
âThis attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,â she said, speaking outside her Downing Street offices, where flags were lowered to half-staff.
May later visited Manchester, meeting with local authorities and signing a condolence book honoring the victims.
Queen Elizabeth II, meanwhile, expressed her âdeepest sympathies.â
âThe whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert,â she said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.
Condemnations also poured in from other leadersÂ around the world.
In Washington, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Tuesday that despite the Islamic Stateâs claim of responsibility for the Manchester attack, âwe have not verified yet the connection.â He noted in a Senate hearing that âthey claim responsibility for virtually every attack.âÂ
TheÂ casualties included childrenÂ as young as elementary school students. Police said that among the 59 people injured, a dozen were younger than 16.Â
Among those killed, Georgina Callander, an 18-year-old student, was the first victim to be named. British media also reported that an 8-year-old girl, Saffie Rose Roussos, could have been the youngest fatality.
âWe believe at this stage the attack last night was conducted by one man,â Hopkins said at a televised news conference. âWe believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.â
In a later appearance, Hopkins said the priority for police was to âestablish whether [the assailant] was acting alone or as part of a network.â
During a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, President Trump pledged âabsolute solidarityâ with Britain and called those responsible for the attack âevil losers in life.â
The bombing appeared intended to inflict maximum bloodshed on the young concertÂgoers â manyÂ in their early teens â who were making their way out of the Manchester Arena, one of Europeâs largest indoor venues, with a seating capacity of 21,000.Â
The blast occurred about 10:30 p.m. Monday, minutes after pop starÂ Ariana Grande had finished her set and many fans were gathered in the foyer to buy concert merchandise.
The explosion set off a panic as fans struggled to flee and parents and teens searched for one another amid the carnage. Parents who had lost contact with their children posted desperate pleas for information on social media using the hashtag #ManchesterMissing.Â
Charlotte Campbell told the BBC that she was âphoning everybody,â including hospitals, trying to locate her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. She last spoke to her daughter on Monday night at the concert.
âSheâd just seen the support act and said she was having an amazing time, and thanking me for letting her go,âÂ Campbell said in an emotional interview.
The attack occurred near one of the exits of the arena, in a public spaceÂ connected to a bustling train station.Â
Jake Taylor, a former security guard at the arena, said its layout makes absolute safety impossible.Â
âYou canât stop people from getting through the train station,âÂ Taylor said.
Mark Harrison, who accompanied his 12-year-old daughter to the concert from Cumbria in northern England, said there were no metal detectors or body checks at the arenaâs entrance, though bags were inspected and items such as water bottles had to be discarded.Â
âThere was definitely a security presence, but anyone can come through the train station,âÂ Harrison, 44, said.Â
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, called it an âevil actâ but praised the âspirit of Manchester that will prevail and hold us together.âÂ
Manchester is âgrieving today, but we are strong,â he said.
On Tuesday evening, a large crowd gathered in Manchesterâs Albert Square for a solemn vigil honoring the victims.
The Monday night attack was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus,Â killing 54 people.
The U.S. Department of Homeland SecurityÂ said late Monday that there was âno information to indicate a specific credible threat involving music venues in the United Statesâ but added that Americans may see âincreased security in and around public places and events as officials take additional precautions.â
In France, the scene of several terrorist attacks over the past year,Â Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called on people to be vigilant in the face of âa threat which is more present than ever before.â
Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival denounced the Manchester bombing as an âattack on culture, youth and joyfulnessâ and observed a minute of silence Tuesday. Cannes isÂ 15 miles from Nice, where an attacker driving a truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day inÂ July, killing 86 people.
Britain has been onÂ high alert for a major attack for several years, with authorities saying that a mass-casualty attack was likely.Â
Grande, who is wildly popular both in Britain and the United States, was not injured in the attack. She expressed herÂ sorrow in a tweet hours after the explosion, saying she was âbroken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so sorry. i donât have words.âÂ
A father told the BBC that he was leaving the arena with his wife and daughter when the blast blew him through a set of doors. Afterward, the man, identified as Andy, saidÂ he saw about 30 peopleÂ âscattered everywhere. Some of them looked dead.âÂ
Separated from his wife and daughter, he said, heÂ âlooked at some of the bodies trying to find my family.âÂ
He later found them, uninjured.
Karen Ford, a witness, told the BBC thatÂ âthere were kids outside, crying on the phone, trying to find their parents.âÂ
The scenes of bloodied, panicked concertgoers running for safety brought to mind similar images at the Bataclan theater in Paris in November 2015.Â
The concert hall became theÂ scene of carnage afterÂ gunmen burst in during a show by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal and began shooting. That attack â for which the Islamic State later asserted responsibility â killed 89 people and injured hundreds, becoming the deadliest event on French soil since World War II. In all, 130 people were killed that night inÂ coordinatedÂ attacks.Â
Monday nightâs blast came two months after a speeding driver left four people dead on Londonâs Westminster Bridge, then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament.
Monday also was the fourth anniversary of theÂ killing of Lee Rigby, a British soldier who was attacked with a machete on the streets of southeast London. Two assailants, who were later convicted of murder, said they were acting to avenge the killing of Muslims by British soldiers.
In just over two weeks, Britain is scheduled to hold a national election. Campaigning was suspended Tuesday, and perhaps beyond. Security has not featured as a prominent part of the debate, although that mayÂ change when campaigningÂ resumes.
Adam reported from London. Souad Mekhennet, Isaac Stanley-Becker, James McAuley and Rick Noack in Manchester, Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, EthiÂoÂpia, and Devlin Barrett, Brian Murphy and Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.
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