At least 22 people, including some children, were killed and 59 were wounded on Monday when a suicide bomber struck as thousands of fans left a concert by US singer Ariana Grande in the English city of Manchester.
The blast, which scattered nuts and bolts across the floor, was caused by an improvised explosive device carried by the attacker.
Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency meeting with intelligence chiefs on the deadliest militant assault in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005.
Police were called to reports of an explosion at 10.33pm, shortly after Grande had finished her performance as thousands of people streamed out of the Manchester Arena. Witnesses related the horror of the blast which prompted a stampede at Europe’s largest indoor arena.
“We ran and people were screaming around us and pushing on the stairs to go outside and people were falling down, girls were crying, and we saw these women being treated by paramedics having open wounds on their legs … it was just chaos,” said Sebastian Diaz, 19.
“It was literally just a minute after it ended, the lights came on and the bomb went off,” Diaz said.
More than 240 calls were made to the emergency services, with 60 ambulances flooding the area and more than 400 police officers deployed as part of the operation.
US President Donald Trump described the attack as the work of “evil losers”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it “will only strengthen our resolve to…work together with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds.”
The White House said Trump has spoken to Britain’s head of government about the latest terrorist attack.
Spokesman Sean Spicer tweeted Tuesday, “@POTUS has spoken with U.K. Prime Minister @theresa_may to offer condolences and support on behalf of the US.”
Police said the attacker detonated the explosives shortly after 10:33 pm at Manchester Arena, which has the capacity to hold 21,000 people. Children were among the dead, police said.
Announcing that the death toll had risen and that children are among the dead, Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told reporters: “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see.
“Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives.”
Hopkins said investigators believed the attack was conducted by one man who died at the scene. The priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.
Police have appealed for concert-goers and witnesses to provide police with footage from the scene if they believe it can assist the probe.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but US officials drew parallels to the coordinated attacks in November 2015 by Islamist militants on the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris, which claimed about 130 lives.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more police had been ordered onto the streets of the British capital. London’s Victoria coach station was briefly closed after the discovery of a suspect package.
A source with knowledge of the situation said the bomber’s explosives were packed with metal and bolts. At least 19 of those wounded were in a critical condition, the source said.
The US singer, 23, whose concerts attract a very large proportion of young women and girls, said on Twitter: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” May, who faces an election in two-and-a-half weeks, said her thoughts were with the victims and their families. She and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, agreed to suspend campaigning ahead of the June 8 election.
May said police and security staff in Manchester believe they know identity of the apparent suicide bomber who attacked people leaving an Ariana Grande concert Monday night, but they are not revealing the name for the time being.
Speaking in London, May said: “This attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice.”