The death toll makes the incident the deadliest attack on British soil since the 7/7 bombings. Nearly 59 people were left injured following the Monday night explosion at Manchester Arena with children and teenagers being among the dead and injured.
Footage showed thousands of people fleeing the arena in a panic after an explosion ripped through the foyer of the arena around 10.40pm local time where many young people had gathered for a concert.
People reported a huge bang as they left at the end of a performance by US singer Ariana Grande, whose fan base is predominantly teenage girls.
Eyewitnesses said the explosion was heard outside the auditorium after the artist had finished her show and left the stage. There was initial confusion on social media as to whether the loud bang could have been gun shots, or even a speaker exploding, but police confirmed the incident was being treated as suspected terrorism as the grim death toll was announced.
Security sources believe the attack may have been the work of a suicide bomber, although this is unconfirmed.
Casualties were taken to hospitals throughout the city, with unconfirmed reports from medical staff of “shrapnel like injuries” being treated.
Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement “We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack.
“All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”
North Manchester General is currently on lockdown and only allowing access to emergency patients and ambulances.
Security are guarding the entrance of the road to the main car park and questioning people as they arrive.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has confirmed 19 people dead and 50 injured. Casualties are being treated at six hospitals across Greater Manchester. He also confirmed it was being treated as a terrorist incident.
Grande is an American citizen and the US Department of Homeland Security has said it was “closely monitoring” the situation at Manchester Arena in the wake of the incident.
Last week UN Security Council’s counterterrorism agency had warned that a wave of “dangerous and disillusioned” ISIS terrorists fleeing defeat in Syria and Iraq earlier this year might hit targets in Europe.
Jean-Paul Laborde Executive Director, Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) told reporters on Thursday that Scores of foreign ISIS fighters, determined to come back to Europe, are “more dangerous” than previous waves of returnees. He added that some may be eager to seek revenge after defeats on the battlefield, including in recent confrontations in Mosul.
Some 5,000 EU nationals are currently fighting in Syria among the ranks of ISIS and other terrorist groups, a senior Syrian official said last month, warning that it’ll be a disaster for European security if these militants return.
Early May, British media reports indicated that hundreds of ISIS terrorists are returning to the country from Syria, with the country’s security forces saying they are unable to control the returnees.
Sources say the influx of ISIS is stretching the UK’s security services to breaking point, with up to 30 officers required to provide 24-hour monitoring of just one suspect.
This comes after a British defector from the Takfiri terrorist group told how up to 300 British members of ISIS remain in the Syrian warzone.
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