Britain arrests 2 more in probe of Manchester network

Manchester - British police said they arrested two more people during raids on Saturday over the Manchester concert bombing, as Prime Minister Theresa May announced a reduction in the country's threat level and of its anti-terror operation.

The two men, aged 20 and 22, were arrested in north Manchester early on Saturday after police gained entry to an address using a controlled explosion.  A bomb disposal team was later involved in a raid in Moss Side, to the south of the city.

Key players

The arrests bring to 11 the number of suspects held in Britain over Monday's blast at a concert by US pop idol Ariana Grande, in which 22 people died and 116 were injured and for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

Police in Libya have detained the father and brother of 22-year-old bomber Salman Abedi.

British police on Saturday said they were raiding an address in Moss Side.

Mark Rowley, head of Britain's counter-terrorism police, said on Friday that police had captured "a large part of the network" linked to the bombing, in which seven children aged under 18 were among the 22 dead.

"We are very happy we've got our hands around some of the key players that we are concerned about but there's still a little bit more to do," he said.

Prime Minister May said on Saturday that the terror threat level had been reduced from critical - its highest level - to severe, having been raised in the wake of the attack.

"There are now 11 suspects in custody," she said in a statement. "In the light of the developments, the independent joint terrorism analysis centre has taken the decision to reduce the threat level from critical to severe.

Armed forces

"We should be clear about what this means: A threat level of severe means an attack is highly likely...the country should remain vigilant."

She also announced that Operation Temperer, which involved the deployment of armed forces personnel to patrol alongside police, would wind down after the bank holiday weekend.

"From midnight on Monday, there will be a well-planned and gradual withdrawal of members of the armed forces, who will return to normal duties," she said.

Armed police will be on patrol over the holiday weekend.

The bombing was the latest in a series of ISIS-claimed attacks in Europe that have co-incided with an offensive against the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq by US, British and other Western forces.

Minimise risk of terror

Dozens of ISIS fighters were killed in US strikes in Syria on Friday, while masked gunmen killed at least 28 people in an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

But as campaigning resumed in Britain for a snap June 8 election following a halt called after Monday's attack, the issue of security, which had not been widely discussed before the attack, was poised to feature highly as polls showed May's poll lead falling sharply.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was the "responsibility" of governments to minimise the risk of terror by giving police the funding they need, after cuts made while May served as interior minister.

The number of police officers fell by 14%, or almost 20 000, from 2009 to 2016, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank.


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