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Eight men are now in custody in connection with Monday’s suicide bombing at a Manchester, England pop concert, including two men who were arrested in separate raids early Thursday.
A woman arrested Wednesday during a raid on an apartment north of Manchester has been released without charge.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said these past few days have been “intense” for the officers and staff of the department but that they continue to make progress in the investigation.
“I want to reassure people that the arrests that we have made are significant. And initial searches of premises have reveled items that we believe are very important to the investigation,” he said Thursday.
Police have given no information about how the detained men may be connected to the bombing.
Moment of silence
A moment of silence was held in Manchester Thursday morning for the victims of Monday’s suicide bombing following a pop music concert.
Residents gathered in a large circle in the city’s St. Ann’s Square with heads bowed before a makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons and candles dedicated to the 22 people killed when Salman Abedi detonated an improvised device just moments after a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande.
Shortly after the memorial service, Queen Elizabeth arrived at Royal Manchester’s Children’s Hospital to visit some of the 64 people injured in the attack. Many of the victims were young children.
In a televised message, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain’s terror threat level will remain at critical.
Bomber’s father, brother arrested
Abedi’s father and brother were arrested by Libyan security forces Wednesday. A spokesman for the Libyan anti-terrorism force said the brother, Hashim Abedi, had recently been in contact with Salman and knew of his plans for the attack.
Abedi’s father, Ramadan, told Reuters he spoke to his son five days ago, and “everything was normal.”
His son did not have extremist beliefs, Ramadan Abedi said in Tripoli, where he lives. He added, however, that Abedi did not disclose he was heading for Manchester when he left Libya last week.
The elder Abedi told the Reuters news agency he condemns “terrorist acts on civilians and innocent people.”
Chief Hopkins told reporters Wednesday, “It’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating,” and that Abedi did not act alone.
Trip to Syria
In France, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Wednesday that British and French intelligence have information that Abedi had likely traveled to Syria.
Collomb told France’s BFM television Abedi “grew up in Britain and then suddenly, after a trip to Libya and then likely to Syria, became radicalized and decided to carry out this attack. In any case, the links with Daesh are proven.”
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, but British and U.S. intelligence have not confirmed that the extremist group was involved.
British and American newspapers have printed police images of some evidence left on the floor of the arena where Abedi blew himself up, including shreds of a backpack or vest that apparently held the bomb and a piece of bloodstained metal that may have been the detonator.