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UK Threat Level Raised to "Critical" as More Info on Attacker is Sought

The Manchester bombing investigation continues. The focus now is on determining whether the attacker, identified by UK police (after it was leaked by U.S. officials) as native British citizen Salman Abedi, acted alone.

This is a long post. While the info is current as of the time I am posting this, it will likely change in the coming days. That said, here's my assessment of what happened and what we learned yesterday. Feel free to add more information in comments. [More...]

First: British Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement, available here, raising the threat level in the country to "critical", based on advice from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC).

This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.

"Operation Temperer" is now in force.

This means that armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, which will allow the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol in key locations. You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events, such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe. In all circumstances, members of the armed forces who are deployed in this way will be under the command of police officers.

Second: The Manchester Police have released this timeline of events. The Head of National Counter Terrorism Policing released this statement.

Next: ISIS claimed credit for the attack on Telegram in an Arabic release (the "Nashir" version) as well as in two releases by the ISIS-affiliated A'maq News Agency, in Arabic and English, but the statements were changed. As best as I can determine from various journalists and analysts I've read on the topic of ISIS, (who often seem to use "inside baseball"jargon, which is why I say as best as I can determine)here's what happened. Nashir put out the first statement, in Arabic, and referred to an IED. Here's the first A'maq statement, in English , which differs from the Nashir's earlier Arabic version in that the earlier version referred to a "مفرزة أمنية ابعة" which according to the usual analysts I read, means a security detachment of the Islamic state (an autonomous cell) rather than a sole attacker. Also the English translation refers to multple ied's going off, while the earlier or later one says there was a single ied. translations refer to one device being detonated, And the second English statment refers to explosive device(s) being placed in the center of a crusader gathering and make no reference to 'inghimasi' or 'ishtishhadi' which is how ISIS usually refers to its suicide bombers. (See this Twitter thread.) Some analysts speculate that ISIS' media team has taken so many hits lately, its replacements may not be as capable, since ISIS releases rarely have this many changes. In any event, they all agree that the use of the words security detachment force mean the group was an independent operating cell.

It appears from the police statement and the statement of one of the parents who was there, that the device went off in the "foyer" of the arena, by one of the exit doors where the performance was held and ending. It's likely Abedi never entered the actual room where the concert was held, so he wouldn't have seen the attendees, except those who were leaving through the exit door. I'm curious to learn whether he even had a clue who Arianna Grande is, or that her audience is mostly young teens, as opposed to merely simply knowing that a big convert was taking place.

On the dead bomber, there is so much conflicting misinformation out there it's almost not worth reporting on. His British name is Salman Abedi. In Libya, where he has dual citizenship and a Libyan ID card his name is Sulayman Abedi. He was born and raised in Great Britain. His parents fled Libya in 1994. According to several accounts, after Gaddafi was killed (2011?), they moved back to Libya (although they may travel back and forth). They have four children, Ismael, Salman, Jomana and Hashim. Some reports say Jomana and Hashim are in Libya with the parents. (Kinds of sounds like the Tsarnaev arrangment, where the parents left the tow boys in the house while they went back to Eastern Europe.

I've seen the Facebook pages of his sister which hasn't been updated since 2014 and seems like the page of a typical teenager (she appears to be into photography and likes TV shows like Pretty Little Liars. She says she lives in Manchester, is from Tripoli and attended the Whalley Range High School and has something to do (possibly employment) at the Didsbury Mosque. She also says she lived in Tunisia and is single (Again, all this could have changed since 2014.) The younger brother Hashim also has a FB page, but it's empty, other than his sports and movie favorites and references to living in Manchester and being from Tripoli. One of his favorite movies: The Angelina Jolie/ Bradd Pitt film, Mr and Mrs. Smith. He also likes the Simpsons.

There are reports that the person arrested yesterday in connection with the attacks is Salman's older brother Ismail. After the search at Salman's house, where police detonated a device to gain entry, they emerged with a book "Know Your Chemicals." They then raided Ismail's apartment at a different location and arrested him. He's married but it does not seem his wife was there.

British media is itching to connect him to some other jihadists from Manchester, especially Raphael Hostey (aka Abu Qaqa al Britani), Abdelraouf Abdallah and his brother Mohammed. Abdelraouf was paralyzed fighting in Libya before joining ISIS and is now in prison in Great Britain. Here is his court docket. A co-defendant was Stephen Gray, who was convicted of arranging their travel to Syria. Gray is a former British soldier who served in the Iraq war and converted to Islam. Does

I have no idea if Libya media is any more reliable, but this article struck me as interesting because it says Abedi had dual citizenship and his Libyan National ID registration has the same Sulaiman Abedi. His parents are from Tripoli.

British police named Salman Abedi, a Libyan-British dual national, as the killer although his Libyan National ID registration reportedly names him as Sulaiman Abedi. Although the family are originally from the east, from Guba, his father was born in Tripoli.

And this Libyan news article says:

He had two siblings, a brother and a sister who were also Manchester-born. It is reported that they are back in Libya with their parents. His father, Ramadan Abedi, is also known as Abu Ismael. Salman has been reported to have recently returned from a trip to Libya.

Analysts are awaiting the official release of the spelling of Abedi’s name in Arabic. If Abedi is indeed of Libyan origin, it is likely that his family may have roots in the east of the country as Abedi is a corruption of Obaidi of the Obaidat tribe centred around the Tobruk and Guba areas of eastern Libya.

Sources have told the Libya Herald that Salman’s father Ramadan is a Cyrenaica federalist, wanting decentralisation and more powers for a regional eastern authority, but is not understood to hold any extremist religious views. The same was said of Salman himself.

An example of the wildly disparate reporting that mainstream media should be ashamed of: Compare, "Experts believe the device detonated at the concert was so sophisticated that Abedi must have either been given specialist training abroad or used a bomb made by a technician who has not yet been captured." with "The device he used was described as homemade and crude although it was stable enough to be transported, and exploded with devastating effect. It was believed to have been constructed in Britain." (no links because neither site deserves them.)

Even worse is the wildly speculative and unfounded reporting that ISIS may be deliberating targeting young females. ISIS has been instructing its supporters to build homemade nail bombs for some time. Last month, someone planned to detonate one at an Elton John concert. A few weeks ago, this 19 year old left one on the Tube in London (He didn't know the person he asked to supply the materials was an MI-5 agent.)

I haven't yet seen any indication from authorities that Abedi knew who Arianna Grande was, or that there would be mostly young girls at the concert. He detonated the device while still in the "foyer" of the arena -- he wouldn't even have seen the concert audience. It's entirely possible he picked the venue just because he knew there would be a big concert there.

Given the book found in his house "Know Your Chemicals", it seems to me the bomb was homemade. He may not have done it by himself or at his house (since he arrived at the venue by train or subway from London, according to his train ticket), but that doesn't mean ISIS directed, as opposed to inspired, the attack. It also doesn't rule out al Qaida or AQAP, as he could have been following all three online.

I hope this was helpful and error free. If not, let me know in comments. I'm going to move onto other topics for tomorrow, but you readers can keep the udpdates going by yourselves.

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