An “explosion in chatter” on social media was reported as news of the Manchester suicide bomb attack broke in the media. Accounts linked videos of Islamists cheering to the first statement about the explosion in the Manchester Arena last night.
Jihadists called the attack “a successful and surprising blow” to Britain and cheered the carnage as retaliation for airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, although no terrorist organisation has claimed responsibility for the explosion.
Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute to the victims of the “appalling terrorist attack” in Manchester and police said they were investigating the incident as a terrorist attack. May as well as other politicians suspended their election campaigns in the wake of the terror attack. An emergency Cobra meeting – short for Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms which are locations for crisis response meetings – will be held this morning.
British Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told reporters: “At around 10.33pm we received reports of an explosion at Manchester Arena in the city centre. This was at the conclusion of the Ariana Grande concert.” Grande is an American musician.
Greater Manchester Police have confirmed that 22 people have been killed and that 59 others were injured in the bomb attack. This morning police said that the suicide bomber also died inside the arena after an improvised explosive device was detonated.
As the explosion tore through the crowd, terrified concertgoers stampeded for the stadium’s exits. The horrifying scenes were caught on mobile phone cameras, and many witnesses in 21 000-seater arena described the carnage as being “like a war zone”.
Heavily armed police, bomb squads and emergency vehicles quickly descended on the venue in the aftermath of the attack.
Rita Katz, the executive director of the SITE counterterrorism organisation, said: “It seems that bombs of the British airforce over children of Mosul and Raqqa has just come back to Manchester, England.”
Rukmini Callimachi, a journalist who covers ISIS and al-Qaeda for the New York Times, tweeted that officials “have zeroed in on what may be the bomber’s body. For me a key question is what type of explosive was used?” Callimachi is at pains to point out that ISIS has not claimed the attack despite the chatter on social media.
She said across dozens of pro-ISIS channels, there has been a “celebration of this atrocity”, adding: “They are hashtagging it.” But Callimachi insists that those are not “official” ISIS channels.
The former head of the Met Police Counterterrorism Command, Richard Walton, called the device a “nail bomb”.