MANCHESTER, England — At least 22 people, including children, have been killed in a blast at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in the deadliest terror attack on British soil since the 2005 London bombings.
Police said they believe a man carrying explosives acted as a lone attacker and died in the powerful explosion that shook part of the cavernous Manchester Arena as concertgoers streamed out after the American pop star’s last song. Islamic State group says one of its members carried out the attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as “callous” and “cowardly.”
Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins identified the bombing suspect as 22-year-old Salman Abedi. British election rolls listed Abedi as living at a modest red brick semi-detached house in a mixed suburb of Manchester where police performed a controlled explosion Tuesday afternoon.
Fifty-nine people were injured, some in life-threatening situations. Ariana Grande tweeted that the incident has left her ‘broken’.
British authorities say an 8-year-old girl, Saffie Roussos, was among the 22 people killed in the Manchester bombing. An ambulance official says 12 children under the age of 16 were among 59 injured in the attack as people left a pop concert.
A school in northern England has identified another of the victims as Georgina Callander, 18, a former pupil.
Peter Rawlinson, deputy of the Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy in Croston, northwest of Manchester, says “she was academically a very gifted student, very hard-working. Just lovely to speak to.”
The school said she died of injuries from the attack and described her as “a lovely young student who was very popular with her peers and the staff.”
A 26-year-old man has also been identified by family as a victim. John Atkinson was reportedly leaving the concert when the attack happened.
Speaking after an emergency Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Theresa May said police had identified the suspected attacker, though she did not reveal his name.
“It is now beyond doubt that the people of Manchester and of this country have fallen victim to a callous terrorist attack. An attack that targeted some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation,” she said.
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage.”
Images from the scene show people running in a panic down stairs to escape the 21,000-seat arena amid the relentless screams of frightened children and young teenagers. Some parents say their children are still missing.
The explosion rocked the arena at around 10:30 p.m. (5:30 pm ET), and the sound of wailing sirens cut through the smoky aftermath of the blast soon after.
Crying children and parents desperately tried to find each other as cell phone signals faltered in the deluge of calls, witnesses said.
Manchester resident Charlotte Campbell told CNN as she was still waiting for news on her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. “We’ve tried everything we can. They’re telling us to wait by the phones,” she said.
Olivia had gone to the concert with a friend and neither have been in contact.
“Her dad is out looking … It’s the most horrible feeling ever, to know your daughter is there and you don’t know whether she’s dead or alive.
“I want her home and I want her safe. … I just want her to walk through the door.”
Coral Long, the mother of a 10-year-old concertgoer, told CNN they were getting ready to leave the arena when they heard a loud bang from the left side of the arena that sent the large crowd running. “How we weren’t crushed to death is a miracle.”
She said her daughter was devastated. “For her to be 10 years old and witness something like that is just horrific.”
Karen Ford, who had taken her 13-year-old daughter to the concert, described “mayhem” on the street.
“I brought my baby home, which some people won’t be (able to do) tonight.”
A nearby hotel became a focal point for parents searching for their children who had been at the concert. Some hotels opened their doors to people who could not get home due to an area lockdown. Taxis and local people offered free rides to those affected.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said that police were investigating whether the attacker was part of a larger network or plot.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is working closely with the British government as it investigates the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.
Tillerson released a statement Tuesday saying that “our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost loved ones and to those injured in the attack.”
He says: “While it is too early to determine those responsible for this atrocity, we are working closely with the British government and supporting their efforts to investigate and respond to this attack.”
Britain has been under a “severe” terror threat alert for three years and there has been an uptick in terror-related arrests in recent months.
Police have been warning that another attack was highly likely after a man plowed his car into a crowd on London’s Westminister Bridge in March and stabbed a policeman, in an attack that left six dead.
Monday’s bomb attack has raised concerns that a more sophisticated network may exist in the country than previously thought.
‘Difficult dawn’ in Manchester
As many as 400 police were deployed in Manchester overnight, Hopkins said early Tuesday, and a CNN journalist saw a heavy armed police presence in parts of the city, particularly outside the Royal Infirmary Hospital where several victims are being treated.
Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, described the attack as “our darkest of nights.”
“Manchester is today waking up to the most difficult of dawns. It is hard to believe what has happened here in the last few hours and to put into words the shock, anger and hurt that we feel today. These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorize and kill. This was an evil act,” he said.
London will also see a heavier police presence Tuesday, the mayor’s office said.
Trump calls attackers ‘losers’
US President Donald Trump slammed the attack, saying that terrorists were “losers.”
“I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims. We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom,” Trump said.
“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are.
“This wicked ideology must be obliterated.”
A US Department of Homeland Security statement said it was “closely monitoring” the situation.