As Threat Level Lowered, Manchester Holds First Big Event Since Monday’s Attack
As jittery residents of Manchester, England, try to enjoy a holiday weekend, a group of local bands have drawn 50,000 fans to the city’s first big music event since Monday’s suicide bombing at Manchester Arena.
Earlier Saturday, Britain reduced its terrorism threat level from “critical” to “severe.”
Extra security, however, was in place at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, on the outskirts of Manchester, for a concert by Manchester bands the Courteneers, the Charlatans, Blossoms and Cabbage.
Fans attending the show were asked to arrive early and not to bring bags. Security officers in ball caps and high-visibility jackets were stationed at 50-meter intervals on roads approaching the venue.
In comments ahead of their set, Courteneers frontman Liam Fray said of Manchester: “If you can think you can beat us, you don’t know who we are.”
One couple even went ahead with their wedding celebration at the concert. The groom, Pete Richards, told the Manchester Evening News: “It has been crazy today. We have had complete strangers coming and congratulating us and having pictures with us.”
The bride, Abby Turner, said the couple had had doubts about whether to continue with their wedding plans, but decided: “You’ve just got to crack on, really.”
Britain’s threat level had been raised to “critical” — meaning another attack was thought to be imminent — after Monday’s bombing at the pop concert in Manchester. The downgrade to “severe” means an attack still is considered highly likely.
Prime Minister Theresa May said that while the threat level was reduced one step, “we should be clear about what this means … the country should remain vigilant.”
Police also released more details about the bomber’s actions just before he detonated his device at Manchester Arena.
Officials say they are trying to learn whether more people were involved in the planning of the attack.
An apartment building in Manchester’s city center was cordoned off after police found the flat where they think the bomber, Salman Abedi, 22, may have assembled his explosive device. Police are guarding the building, known as Granby House.
The Greater Manchester Police said on Twitter they had arrested two men — ages 22 and 20 — in raids Saturday. The statement said a “controlled explosion” was used to gain entry to the men’s address in the Cheetham Hill neighborhood.
A police tweet said, “A total of 11 men remain in custody for questioning.”
Soldiers, who have been helping police, are expected to be withdrawn from Britain’s streets in the next few days.
Abedi, a Manchester native, blew himself up in the lobby of Manchester Arena Monday just after U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande finished her concert. The explosion killed 22 people and wounded at least 116 children and adults.
A militia in Libya has detained Abedi’s father and brother. Details on how they may be tied to the bombing have not been released.
Many of the victims were young girls, a large part of Grande’s fan base. Others were parents who had gone to meet their children after the concert. The youngest victim was 8 years old.
Grande said she would return to Manchester to do a benefit show to raise money for the victims and their families. No date has yet been set for the concert.