At least 22 people, including children, were killed and 59 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up as thousands of fans were exiting US star Ariana Grande’s pop concert in Manchester, the deadliest terror attack in the UK since the 7/7 bombings of 2005.
Children and teenagers were among the dead because of the very young demographic of the pop star’s fans. Screaming concert-goers fled the venue last night in panic after the blast struck the Manchester Arena — Europe’s largest indoor arena.
“Our thoughts are with those 22 victims that we now know have died, the 59 people who have been injured and their loved ones. We continue to do all we can to support them. They are being treated at eight hospitals across Greater Manchester,” Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said.
“This is a fast-moving investigation...We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe that while 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,” he said in a statement.
Police confirmed the attacker died at the arena. They said the male attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing the massive blast. However, police have not yet confirmed the identity of the attacker.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the people of Manchester have fallen victim to a “callous terrorist attack”. After chairing a Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) meeting here in the wake of the blast, May said a single terrorist detonated a device near the exit, at a time and place intended to cause maximum injuries.
All terrorist attacks are terrible, but this stands out for its cowardice, May said. She said many of those wounded have life-threatening injuries. It is the worst attack Manchester has suffered, and the worst to hit the north of England, May said. May said if others are responsible for the attack, they will be brought to justice.
The police believe that attack was carried out by one person. But they need to find out if he was acting alone. The police think they know the identity of the perpetrator. But the police are not at this point revealing his name, May said.
“Our way of life will always prevail,” she asserted. Official sources in New Delhi said they were ascertaining if there were any Indian casualties in the blast. “Any Indians injured during Manchester attack today may reach off-office hours Public Response Unit of HCI (High Commission of India) ASAP (as soon as possible) at 020 7632 3035,” the Indian High Commission here tweeted.
“We’ll activate more helplines shortly to be of further assistance to families and friends of those affected by attack,” it said. Manchester, a heavily industrialised town, is home to a significant number of people from South Asia. The blast comes just weeks before the snap UK general election, campaigning for which was hotting up over the issue of Brexit — the UK’s exit from the European Union.
However, both May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn suspended election campaign after the Manchester attack. May chaired an emergency Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) meeting here in the wake of the blast. US President Donald Trump condemned the “evil losers” behind the bomb attack.
“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers,” Trump said after meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank. British Transport Police said the explosion occurred in the foyer area of Manchester Arena that has a capacity of 21,000.
Eyewitnesses said the explosion was heard after the artist had finished her show and left the stage. Pop star Grande’s spokesperson said she was safe. Grande, a 23-year-old American TV teen actress-turned-pop star, said that she was “broken” and at a loss for words over the deadly terror attack at her concert.
“Broken. From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. i don’t have words,” she tweeted hours after the powerful blast. According to TMZ, the singer has indefinitely suspended her world tour in the wake of the attack. Greater Manchester Police also carried out a “controlled explosion” in the Cathedral Gardens area near the Manchester Arena, but have since confirmed the item they found was abandoned clothing and not dangerous.
Armed police lined the streets outside the arena with officers moving members of the public away and bomb disposal units at the site of the blast. Reacting to the incident, Opposition Labour Party leader Corbyn tweeted, “Terrible incident in Manchester. My thoughts are with all those affected and our brilliant emergency services.”
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said, “My heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones, my admiration to our brave emergency services. A terrible night for our great city.”
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the incident as “a barbaric attack, deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society”. Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud “bang” from inside the venue. Video footage from the scene showed bloodied victims being helped by emergency services.
“It was one bang and essentially everyone from the other side of the arena where the bang was heard from suddenly came running towards us,” an eyewitness said. “Some people were screaming they’d seen blood but other people were saying it was balloons busting or a speaker had been popped,” said another eyewitness.
The UK’s Network Rail said train lines out of Manchester Victoria station, which is close to the concert venue, were blocked. Manchester Arena is the biggest indoor venue in the city.
The arena foyer connects with Victoria train and tram station, a major hub on the northern edge of the city centre. The arena regularly hosts concerts by major stars like Grande.
Last night’s blast came two months after a careening driver left four people dead on London’s Westminster Bridge, then stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament. Yesterday’s blast was also the deadliest after the July 7, 2005, London bombings, that were a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bomb attacks in central London. The bombings had targeted civilians using the public transport system during the rush hour. Fifty-two people were killed and over 700 more were injured in those attacks.