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Salman Abedi unlikely to have been acting alone, says Rudd

Home secretary says Manchester bomber was known to security services but it remains unclear whether Isis was behind attack

The suicide bomber who attacked a Manchester concert was likely to have been working with other terrorists but was known to the security services only up to a point, the home secretary has said.

Amber Rudd said Salman Ramadan Abedi was known to the intelligence agencies but it was not yet known whether Islamic State directed the attack on Manchester Arena, which killed 22 people and injured 59.

It seems likely, possible, that he wasnt doing this on his own, she said.

Speaking to broadcasters, Rudd said she expected the presence of soldiers on the streets in support of armed police would be temporary, after the terrorism threat level was raised from severe to critical on Tuesday night. The higher level means an attack may be imminent.

Almost 1,000 military personnel have been sent to places such as Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament, which has also cancelled public tours and banned access to outside visitors.

Separately, Rudd expressed her displeasure at the leaking of information on the Manchester attack from US officials, saying it was irritating and she had been clear that it must not happen again.

She later added: The Americans are very clear that we really need their support in maintaining operational integrity, and that means also controlling the information.

Theresa May chaired another meeting of the governments emergency Cobra committee at 9.30am, after the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) decided the threat level should be raised.

After that meeting, the home secretary gave few further details, simply saying only good progress was being made with the investigation.

She declined to comment on a claim from her French counterpart that Abedi had proven links to Islamic State and probably travelled to Syria, and also declined to say whether he had been subject to a temporary exclusion order or a terrorism prevention and investigation measure.

Amid questions about whether there were enough armed officers to deal with incidents outside London, Rudd said earlier that she believed the police and security services had the right legislation and resources to tackle the threat facing the UK.

They have been given the support, training and investment needed to increase the number of armed police officers and that process is ongoing. This is a response to a particular situation. This calls for additional action, research and reassurance, she told BBC Radio 4s Today programme.

The government will also review the Prevent strategy, aimed at stopping the radicalisation of young people in Muslim communities, many of whom view the scheme with suspicion.

Rudd promised an uplift in Prevent, but defended its effectiveness, saying it had stopped hundreds of children and young adults travelling abroad to fight for militant groups.

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, said the emergency services had the right resources to deal with the attack on Tuesday, though there would be wider questions about funding at a later date.

Burnham also criticised Prevent, saying there was a danger of it casting a cloud of suspicion over a whole community in a way that could damage rather than enhance relations with the police, as happened in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

The mayor, who has been included in briefings by counter-terrorism officials, agreed with Rudd that the bomber was unlikely to have been acting alone. The nature of the attack would suggest that. It wasnt a very lone wolf attack, he told the same programme.

On Tuesday, May announced all national election campaigning would be suspended for at least another day or longer. Some local Labour campaigning has resumed in a low-key way, and Ukip plans to launch its manifesto on Thursday.

Rudd dismissed the idea circulating online that the prime minister had increased the terror threat opportunistically in the middle of an election, as the decision was taken by the JTAC, an independent body.

This was also rejected by Labours Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, who said it was not the moment for conspiracy theories.

She told BBC2s Newsnight: If anybody is feeling panicked about the timing of this, I would just urge them to be calm and united. I have colleagues who are great civil libertarians and human rights folk and privy counsellors and I think that it is possible to take this forward in a bipartisan way.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/24/manchester-bomber-unlikely-acting-alone-rudd-salman-ramadan-abedi

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