Saturday 21 April 2018

Manchester bombing: Photos of device used in terror attack revealed in suspected leak

UK 'furious' as Manchester attack photos leaked to US press

Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing

Lucy Pasha-Robinson

Suicide bomber Salman Abedi may have carried the powerful explosive used in the terror attack on Manchester Arena in a lightweight metal container concealed within either a black vest or a blue Karrimor backpack, according to reports published by The New York Times.

Abedi is also thought to have held a detonator in his left hand, the paper said, attributing the intelligence to "preliminary information gathered by British authorities."

Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing

The paper published crime scene photos of what appeared to be the blood-smeared silver detonator, with wires trailing from one end.

"The apparent detonator, which British law enforcement officials said was carried in the bomber's left hand, is also unusual for a manual detonator in a suicide device, in that it appears to have contained a small circuit board soldered inside one end," the paper reported.

Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing

"It is not clear from the law enforcement images if the object was a simple plunger switch, or included a timer or a receiver that could be operated remotely via radio signal - or some combination."

A tight-lipped Home Office declined to comment on the suggestion the intelligence had been leaked by US authorities, just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd warned American officials not to share details about terror attacks, such as the Manchester bombing, before their UK counterparts.

Ms Rudd said she had reprimanded American officials who appear to have shared information with US media before it was released in the UK by British police of security services.

"I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again," she said, calling it "irritating" when information was released from other sources as British authorities worked on the ongoing investigation.

Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing

British ministers have voiced their fury to American counterparts after photographs from the Manchester concert bomb were leaked to the US press.

The pictures appeared in the New York Times just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd issued a plea to US authorities not to leak, sparking fury in Whitehall.

Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing
Parts of the bomb believed to have been used in the Manchester bombing

The disclosure is regarded as "completely unacceptable" by Britain, both because of the distress it may cause families of those killed or injured and because of the risk it could complicate ongoing investigations into the atrocity.

The row - which goes to the heart of the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the transatlantic allies - provides an awkward backdrop to Theresa May's meeting with President Donald Trump at the Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

A Whitehall source said: "We are furious. This is completely unacceptable.

"These images leaked from inside the US system will be distressing for victims, their families and the wider public.

"The issue is being raised at every relevant level by the British authorities with their US counterparts."

The leak comes after the name of the Manchester Arena bomber emerged in the US media on Tuesday hours before it was confirmed by UK police, who had earlier urged reporters not to publish speculation about the suspect's identity.

Ms Rudd said on Wednesday morning she was "irritated" by the early release of Salman Abedi's name and had made "very clear" to American counterparts that no further leaks should happen.

The Home Office declined to respond to the new leak, but pointed reporters to Ms Rudd's earlier comments in a clear indication that her stance had not changed.

A Downing Street spokesman made no comment.

Britain's intelligence links with the US are among the closest in the world, and information is routinely shared by security and intelligence agencies as part of the special relationship between the transatlantic allies.

The Home Secretary said she did not believe that the Americans had compromised the investigation.

But she added: "Quite frankly, the British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again."

Congressman Adam Schiff, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said: "If we gave up information that has interfered in any way with their investigation because it tipped off people in Britain - perhaps associates of this person that we identified as the bomber - then that's a real problem and they have every right to be furious."

The row is a fresh source of embarrassment for the US, a week after the Prime Minister was forced to give assurances that Britain still has confidence in the special relationship amid concerns relating to Mr Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said the "unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence" to US media about the Manchester bombing investigation "undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families."

Additional reporting from PA

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