London – British interior minister Amber Rudd revealed on Sunday that a number of affiliates of Salman Abedi, Manchester’s suicide bomber, are possibly still at large.
Rudd’s statement followed Prime Minister Theresa May lowering threat levels from “critical” to “severe,” which was only achievable through mighty efforts spent by security forces.
When asked how many potential militants the government was worried about, Rudd said the security services were looking at 500 different potential plots, involving 3,000 people as a “top list”, with a further 20,000 beneath that.
“That is all different layers, different tiers. It might be just a question mark about one of them or something serious with that top list,” she said.
Greater Manchester Police said on Sunday that they had arrested a 14th person in connection with the attack. The 25-year-old man was detained in the southwest of the city on suspicion of terrorism offenses. Police were also searching another address in the south of Manchester.
Rudd said Britain was making good progress with internet companies on this but that more could be done. Technology companies such as WhatsApp say they cannot break end-to-end encryption.
The government has previously complained that technology companies are not doing enough to tackle the use of their networks both to promote extremist ideology and for communication between militant suspects via encrypted messages.
Police have issued a photograph of Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, taken on Monday night before he blew himself up and said they believed he had assembled his bomb in an apartment in the city center.
British officials have confirmed he had recently returned from Libya and the officers said that police needed information about his movements since his return to Britain on May 18.
Abedi was known to British security services before the bombing, the government has said, but Rudd declined to comment on exactly what had been known about him.
Media have reported that people who knew Abedi had raised concerns about him and his views as long ago as five years before he carried about Monday’s attack.
Security minister Ben Wallace also told the BBC that the government was looking at a range of options to put more pressure on internet companies to take down extremist material and change their algorithms to stop such posts from linking to similar material elsewhere online.