Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that following several arrests, members of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi’s terror network could “potentially” still be at large.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday whether some of the group are yet to be apprehended, Rudd said: “Potentially. It is an ongoing operation. There are 11 people in custody, the operation is still really at full tilt in a way.”
“Until the operation is complete, we can’t be entirely sure that it is closed.”
Ms. Rudd added that Islamic State was trying to “weaponise” young Britons and defended the work of the security services, amidst reports that Abedi had been repeatedly reported to authorities over a five-year period but warnings were not followed up.
Additionally, according to a security source, the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had warned MI5 in January that Abedi was planning a terror attack in the UK.
Rudd also confirmed that MI5 are looking at 500 different plots, with 3,000 suspects on a “top list”, and 20,000 individuals below that under “different layers, different tiers”. The admission comes after it emerged that the actual number of jihadists on intelligence services’ watchlists is 23,000 – not 3,000 as initially claimed.
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) May 28, 2017
Khalid Masood, who ran down a number of pedestrians and stabbed a police constable to death outside the Palace of Westminster in March 2017, was amongst the pool of individuals who had been reported to the authorities – but, like Abedi, was not in the group of 3,000 under active surveillance.
Since the Westminster terror attack in March, security services have foiled five terror plots and Senior National Co-ordinator for Counter-Terrorism Neil Basu revealed that terror suspects are being arrested “on a near daily basis”.
The home secretary’s comments come after Greater Manchester Police have released CCTV images taken of Abedi hours before the bombing, hoping to obtain further information from the public on his movements between the 18th of May and Monday’s attack.
The terror target, a concert by American pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena, was attended mostly by children, families, and young women. Twenty-two people were killed and over 120 were injured of which 60 needed to be hospitalised. The youngest fatality was an eight-year-old girl.
The threat level was reduced from ‘Critical’ to ‘Severe’ on Saturday, following progress in the investigation. Operation Temperer, an emergency plan which sees the military support the police in the event of major terror incidents, is expected to be scaled down after the Bank Holiday Weekend.
Nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed in London, with the traditional Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace cancelled for an “indefinite period” and the Palace of Westminster was closed to the public. A phased reopening began on Friday.