Mike McCaul, chair of the homeland security committee, says device contained same explosive as Paris and Brussels attacks and bomber was not ‘lone wolf’
The bomb detonated by the Manchester terrorist Salman Abedi used the same explosive as those in the Paris and Brussels attacks, a US lawmaker has said, pointing to a possible link to the same terrorist network.
The chair of the US House’s homeland security committee, the Republican Mike McCaul, said the bomb suggested a “level of sophistication” that implied its maker or makers may have had foreign training.
McCaul said the backpack carried by Abedi in Monday’s attack was loaded with the same explosives used in the November 2015 attacks in Paris and the Brussels attack in March 2016 carried out by Islamic State extremists. He described it as “a classic explosive device used by terrorists”.
McCaul said the evidence known about the attack so far indicated “we’re not dealing with a lone wolf situation”.
A former counter-terrorism specialist with extensive experience of bomb disposal and knowledge of the Middle East described the design as “unsophisticated”.
But the specialist – who declined to be named – added: “It’s unusual to get it right first time. Normally you would expect people to have a fairly extensive period of testing behind them. This indicates to me there is a broader network and that Abedi was the mule rather than the bombmaker.” He added: “The bombmaker is still out there.”
The specialist said that the “improvised initiator” suggested that the explosives used in the bomb were “home made”. The scenario that army explosives might have been imported from Libya appeared less likely, he said.
Will Geddes, a British security specialist, said the detonator used in the Manchester bomb was a “specially acquired piece of equipment”.
“The most interesting part was the detonator itself. It takes the bomb beyond homemade. It suggests it was well put together and packaged, and professionally assembled.”
Geddes, the chief executive of the security consultants ICP, added: “I think it’s highly unlikely that Abedi got this piece independently. I think the bomb would have been delivered in its final format either by a courier or by the bombmaker.”
The detonator functioned as a dead man’s trigger, he said. He added that the bomb could have been set off either by depressing a “pressel switch” or by letting go of it, in the event that the bomber was shot or incapacitated.
British authorities are exploring whether Abedi, who grew up in Manchester but had travelled to and from Libya since 2011, had links with terrorist networks across Europe and north Africa.
An official said one element of the investigation was whether Abedi was part of a larger terror cell that included Mohamed Abrini, otherwise known as “the man in the hat”, with connections to the Brussels and Paris attacks. Abrini visited Manchester in 2015.
Nuts and bolts were packed around the bomb. Such was the power of the blast it generated that fragments of metal penetrated doors and walls of the arena. Nuts and bolts were removed from the bodies of survivors during surgeries.
Abedi was standing in the middle of a crowd when he detonated his explosive. The upper part of his body was thrown towards the entrance to the arena by the blast.
“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise,” Rudd said on Wednesday morning.
A mother, at the concert with her two daughters, described seeing a man she believes to have been the suicide bomber. Emma Johnson told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I turned and saw [a] bright red top in the crowd with a grey panel down the front with risen bits all over it. It was that which stood out because it was so intense among the crowds of people. As quick as I saw it the explosion happened.”
She said she was 15ft (4.5 metres) away. “It happened near where they sell the merchandise,” said Johnson. “There were dead bodies everywhere. I saw the remains of the torso and the remains of the body.”
The metro mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “My heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones, my admiration to our brave emergency services. A terrible night for our great city.”
The Manchester Arena has a 21,000 capacity and is one of the largest music venues in Europe.
The ambulance service covering Manchester, which is dealing with a significant toll of wounded people, asked people to contact them only if they were in a life-threatening situation because of the “large number of resources” at the incident.
Source: The Guardian