Britain cuts terrorism threat level after more arrests

Police arrested two more suspects Saturday over the deadly Manchester concert bombing. (AP)

Britain lowered its security threat level to “severe” on Saturday following significant activity by police investigating the suicide bomb attack in Manchester, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The level was raised to “critical” - meaning another attack was thought to be imminent -  after Monday’s bombing at a pop concert in Manchester. It has now been downgraded to “severe”, which means an attack is considered highly likely.

As a result, soldiers who have been assisting police, would be withdrawn from Britain’s streets from midnight on Monday.

Two more suspects held

Police arrested two more suspects Saturday over the deadly Manchester concert bombing, as Britons began a sunny holiday long weekend under heightened security.

Greater Manchester Police said two men, aged 20 and 22, were detained early Saturday in the northwest England city on suspicion of terrorism offenses. Police used an explosive device to get into a property to make the arrests.

Police say they are now holding 11 men, aged between 18 and 44, in custody and have made major progress in their investigation.

Mark Rowley, Britain’s top counterterrorism police officer, said authorities have dismantled a “large part” of the network around bomber Salman Abedi. But he said there were still “gaps in our understanding” of the plot, as investigators probed Abedi’s potential links to the militants in Britain, Europe, Libya and the Middle East.

The 22-year-old Briton of Libyan descent died in Monday’s explosion, which killed 22 people and wounded dozens as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert.

PM May returns

Prime Minister Theresa May returned early from the G-7 summit in Sicily, and will chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee on Saturday.

Hundreds of soldiers have been sent to replace police at high-profile sites including Buckingham Palace and Parliament, and police armed with submachine guns are being deployed in city centers, transit hubs, tourist areas and major events.

Earlier, despite the critical alert, police have urged people to go out and enjoy themselves over the three-day holiday weekend. More than 1,000 armed police are on standby as major events including the Football Association Cup Final and the Premiership Rugby Final are expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

Manchester is slowly returning to normal, though dozens of people remain hospitalized and the damaged arena and adjacent Victoria train station remain closed.

Grande has promised to return to Manchester for a benefit concert. In a statement Friday, she said “I’ll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families.”

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she said. “We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:00 - GMT 11:00
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