London: British Prime Minister Theresa May said today the suicide bombing at a concert of a US star in Manchester city that killed 22 people was the worst terrorist attack to hit northern England, aimed at causing “maximum carnage”.
May, who arrived at the scene of last night’s attack which also left 59 injured, said that “this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice – deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives”.
“It is now beyond doubt that the people of Manchester and of this country have fallen victim to a callous terrorist attack. It is the worst attack Manchester has suffered, and the worst to hit the north of England,” Maysaid.
“This was among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom. And although it is not the first time Manchester has suffered in this way, it is the worst attack the city has experienced, and the worst ever to hit the north of England,” she said.
The attack at Manchester Arena – Europe’s largest indoor arena – during the concert of Ariana Grande was claimed by the Islamic State group today.
The British prime minister, who had made her statement at the steps of Downing Street in London soon after chairing an emergency response meeting of ministers and intelligence officials of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (Cobra), confirmed that the identity of the attacker is now known to the police but will not be released while investigations are ongoing.
“We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,”she said, adding that the terror threat level in the UK will remain at “severe” – meaning an attack is highly likely – but officials will now consider whether it should be raised to “critical” – the highest level possible.
“The independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which sets the threat level on the basis of the intelligence available to them, will continue to assess this throughout today and in the days ahead,” she said.
She added: “We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish, but as an opportunity for carnage.
“But we can continue to resolve to thwart such attacks in future, to take on and defeat the ideology that often fuels this violence, and if there turn out to be others responsible for this attack, to seek them out and bring them to justice.”
She praised police and security services, who acted in accordance with the plans they have in place and the exercises they conduct to test those plans.
“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,” she said.
In Manchester, May was briefed by chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Ian Hopkins, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and members of emergency services.
Reiterating that campaigning for the June 8 general election campaign stands suspended, she confirmed that she will be chairing a second Cobra meeting later in the day.