The blast occurred in the foyer outside the Manchester Arena concert hall, just as Ariana Grande’s concert was ending Monday night. (Manchester-Arena.com file photo)
WASHINGTON – Police in Manchester, England on Tuesday morning said they have arrested a 23-year-man in connection with Monday night’s deadly terrorist-related attack at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.
The Greater Manchester Police did not release any other information about the arrest.
A suicide bomber died at the scene, according to Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the police department.
Cheers of excitement suddenly turned to screams of horror when the suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at the concert about 10:30 p.m. local time. Police said 22 people were killed – including children – and dozens were injured.
The sold-out concert had just concluded, Grande had gone backstage and the house lights had come up when a very loud explosion suddenly rang out at about 10:30 p.m. local time, witnesses said. Audience members – many of them kids, tweens and teenagers – were videotaped fleeing the arena. Witnesses described chaos as the terrified concert-goers tried to escape. Their yells grew louder as people began to panic and smoke filled the space.
Meanwhile, many parents were waiting outside of the building to pick up their children.
The blast occurred “outside the venue in a public space,” Manchester Arena officials said on Twitter. The area is a foyer outside the actual 21,000-seat concert hall.
After the initial blast, police carried out a precautionary controlled explosion nearby but the item turned out to be discarded clothing – not a “suspicious item,” police said.
As another precaution, police evacuated the adjacent Manchester Victoria rail station. It will remain closed Tuesday, United Kingdom National Rail announced.
“We have been treating this as a terrorist attack and we believe. at this stage, that the attack last night was conducted by one man. The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or a part of a network,” Chief Constable Hopkins said Tuesday morning local time.
“We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated causing this atrocity.”
“Our priority is to work with the National Counter Terrorist Policing Network and UK Intelligence services to establish more details about the individual who carried out the attack,” Hopkins said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed in a statement that police are treating the incident as a terror attack. She suspended campaigning for the June 8 general election and chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee on Tuesday morning. Later, opponent Jeremy Corbyn said he agreed to also suspend campaigning in light of the attack.
“We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack,” May said. “All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”
She said later that police believe they know the identity of the attacker but are still investigating and have not yet released a name.
ISIS claimed respomsibility for the attack online on Tuesday but there has been no confirmation. In the past ISIS has claimed a connection to lone-wolf attacks.
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security statement said the agency was “closely monitoring” the situation and has “no information to indicate a specific credible threat involving music venues in the United States.”
Grande, who turns 24 a month from Tuesday, was not injured but was reportedly very shaken up. She tweeted a few hours after the bombing: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 23, 2017
Desperate parents and friends are posting on Grande’s Twitter feeds photos of missing people along with pleas for information about their whereabouts. Authorities established an emergency phone number that people who are missing loved ones or friends can call for information.
Grande later announced on Twitter early Tuesday that she is suspending her Dangerous Woman World Tour due to the bombing. The tour began on Feb. 3 in Phoenix. Monday night’s show was her only scheduled performance for Manchester and one of three for England. She had two shows scheduled for London, on Friday and Saturday.
Regina Holmes has more than two decades of experience as a journalist –editing and reporting for news dailies including the Miami Herald, Newsday and the Baltimore Examiner.