'We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to perish, but as an opportunity for carnage.'
In the aftermath of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, 22 have been confirmed dead and 59 injured following a suspected terrorist attack. At around 10:33pm last night, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion in the foyer of the building which has a capacity of 21,000 people. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Greater Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins released a statement to the press this morning, saying, ‘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.’
‘The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.’
The male attacker was named by police as 22 year old Salman Abedi, however Chief Constable Ian Hopkins did also say that the Coroner had yet to formally identify him.
In a Downing Street address, Prime Minister Theresa May said, ‘All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent defenceless children and young people who should’ve been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.’
‘We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to perish, but as an opportunity for carnage. But we can continue to resolve to thwart such attacks in future, to take on and fight the ideology that often fuels this violence.’
Many of the audience members were young children and teenagers, whose family members were waiting for them outside the arena. Camera footage showed horrifying scenes of people clambering over one another to get out of the venue.
The youngest victim was 8 year old Saffie Rose Roussos, whose sister and mother were hospitalised for injuries. The bodies of 18 year old college student Georgina Callander and 28 year old John Atkinson have also been identified. 12 children under the age of 16 were among the wounded.
Over 400 police officers worked throughout the night and injured are being treated across eight Greater Manchester hospitals. On site paramedics have told the BBC that those injured by the blast were treated for ‘shrapnel-like injuries’.
One concertgoer said to the Independent, ‘We just thought [the explosion] was people messing about then it happened again. Another explosion sounded. Then we saw the smoke. Everyone just fled. Some people were injured.’
‘We saw blood on people when we got outside. People were just running all over the place. People have said it was a speaker or balloons but it wasn’t. It was explosions.’
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Transport in the area has been widely affected as the explosion occurred nearby Victoria train and tram station. All train services have been cancelled and the station will remain closed on Tuesday.
Local taxi companies waived fees and out of service buses worked throughout the night to help stranded audience members return home. Social media also rallied around those affected with the hashtag #roomformanchester, offering a place to stay for those in need.
A suspicious object was found at the nearby Cathedral gardens, however following a controlled explosion it was revealed to be non-threatening. A second controlled explosion also took place at Fallowfield, however authorities have yet to comment on the operation. An unnamed 23 year old man has also been arrested in conjunction with the bombings and a raid at Whalley Range has been conducted by police.
ISIS announced via social media that they were behind the attack, however police are still looking into whether Abedi was working alone or within the framework of a larger terrorist network in the UK. This is the worst act of terrorism that Britain has seen since the 7/7 bombings in 2005 when four suicide bombers killed 52 people on London transport links, as well as the worst to ever hit northern England.
A vigil led by Mayor Andy Burnham is set to take place in Manchester at Albert Square tonight at 6pm.
GCSEs and A Levels are currently taking place across the country, however the Joint Council for Qualifications has given schools directly affected the option to postpone examinations. They said, ‘School leaders are best placed to decide if exams should go ahead and, if they decide they are not, exam boards will make sure that no student is disadvantaged.’
Prime Minister Theresa May and Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn have also called a halt to their campaigns in the lead up to the general election and flags at Downing Street have been lowered to half mast. The UK international terrorist threat level has been raised to critical, which according to the Mi5 website states that ‘a terrorist attack is expected imminently’. Subsequently, security measures have been raised across the country in response.
The singer Ariana Grande was unharmed in the attack. She tweeted at 3:51am following the attack, ‘broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words’
The concert was part of her Dangerous Woman European tour, which was set to continue onto Belgium, Poland and Germany. She was also set to perform at the O2 arena in London this Thursday and Friday, however a statement issued by the O2 reads, ‘we will advise as soon as we can as to the status of those shows’. It is currently unclear if those performances will go ahead.
Grande’s manager Scooter Braun also responded, ‘Tonight our hearts are broken. Words cannot express our sorrow for the victims and families harmed in this senseless attack. We mourn the lives of children and loved ones taken by this cowardly act. We are thankful for the selfless service tonight of Manchester’s first responders who rushed towards danger to help save lives.’
Theresa May spoke of Britain’s continued fight against terrorism and the bravery of those in Manchester, ‘As we experienced the worst of humanity in manchester last night, we also saw the best. The cowardice of the attacker met the bravery of the emergency services and the people of Manchester.’
‘The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together and in the days ahead, those must be the things we remember…they are the images that embody the spirit of Manchester and the spirit of Britain. A spirit that through years of conflict and terrorism has never been broken and will never be broken.’
For those trying to find information about loved ones they think may have been affected, emergency hotlines have been set up at 0161 856 9400 or 0161 856 9900.
We will continue to update you as news emerges.