Islamic State claims responsibility for Manchester bombing

Police stand behind a cordoned off area near the Manchester Arena in Manchester, Britain, on Tuesday, the morning after an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert killed at least 22 people and injured 59 others. Photo by Nigel Roddis/EPA

May 23 (UPI) — The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Manchester Arena bombing in which 22 people died and 59 were injured, including young, school-age children.

Though the Islamic State on Tuesday took responsibility via the Telegram messaging application, it is not clear if the lone attacker was either directly or indirectly supported by the militant Islamist group.

The Runshaw College identified the first confirmed fatality as 18-year-old student Georgina Callander. The Lancashire County Council identified 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland as another fatality. The identities of other victims have not yet been revealed.

David Ratcliffe, medical director of North West Ambulance Service, said at least 12 children under the age of 16 are among the 59 injured.

The Greater Manchester Police said officers arrested a 23-year-old man in South Manchester in “regards to last night’s incident at the Manchester arena.” Details of the arrest were not available.

Earlier Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the Manchester Arena bombing was a “callous terrorist attack” targeting children.

While speaking in front of the 10 Downing Street prime minister’s headquarters, May said a “single terrorist” detonated an improvised explosive device near an exit after the conclusion of a concert attended by families and many children at about 10:30 p.m. Monday at the arena, “deliberately choosing the time and place to cause maximum carnage and to kill and injure indiscriminately.”

“It is now beyond doubt that the people of Manchester and of this country have fallen victim to a callous terrorist attack. An attack that targeted some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation,” May said in a statement. “This was among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom, and although it is not the first time Manchester has suffered in this way, it is the worst attack the city has experienced, and the worst ever to hit the north of England.”

May said the attacker also died in the bombing. Out of the 59 people being treated in eight Manchester hospitals, many are in life-threatening condition, May said.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said authorities are working to determine the extent to which the bomber acted alone or as part of a network.

British police said the IED was a “home-made” explosive. On Tuesday, the Arndale shopping center near the Manchester Arena was evacuated after an explosion was reported, though police said it is not related to the bombing on Monday.

Queen Elizabeth II released a statement on Tuesday following the attack.

“The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert. I know I speak for everyone in expressing my deepest sympathy to all who have been affected by this dreadful event and especially to the families and friends of those who have died or were injured,” the Queen wrote. “I want to thank all the members of the emergency services, who have responded with such professionalism and care. And I would like to express my admiration for the way the people of Manchester have responded, with humanity and compassion, to this act of barbarity.”

Panicked spectators fled Manchester Arena after what several concertgoers described as a huge explosion after the last song performed by American singer Ariana Grande. The arena, built in 1995, has a capacity of 21,000 spectators but it is not yet clear how many people attended the show.

May chaired a meeting of the British government’s emergency Cobra committee prior to delivering her statement and is expected to visit Manchester later on Tuesday.

“All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice — deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people, who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” May said.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the city will hold a vigil at Albert Square starting at 6 p.m. for the victims Tuesday night.

“We will never be beaten,” Burnham said.

The Manchester Arena bombing is the worst attack in Britain since the July 7, 2015, bombings in which 52 people were killed.

Out of respect for the victims, May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed to suspend campaigning for Britain’s June 8 general election until further notice.

The Vatican said Pope Francis is “deeply saddened” by the bombing.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester,” the Vatican wrote in a statement. “He expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. He commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel, and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died.”

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