By Thomas Burrows
Troops are to be deployed onto Britain’s streets amid fears a further terror attack ‘may be imminent’.
Theresa May announced the move this evening, less than 24 hours after the bomb attack at a teen concert in Manchester, which left 22 dead and 59 injured.
The Prime Minister confirmed the identity of the Manchester suicide bomber as 22-year-old British Libyan Salman Abedi.
But intelligence agencies fear he may not have acted alone – leaving open the possibility of an active Islamist terror cell on the loose.
Britain’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre last night raised the terror threat level to ‘critical’, its highest level.
The threat level has only been raised to ‘critical’ twice since the system was introduced in August 1, 2006.
It came after the worst UK atrocity since 2005, when a nail bomber murdered 22 concert-goers as young as eight at an Ariana Grande concert.
The suicide bomber Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent, was the son of an airport security worker, MailOnline can reveal.
Police today carried out a controlled explosion at the doorstep of his home during raids around the city. Forensics officer were seen emerging from the killer’s property carrying a booklet called Know Your Chemicals.
Police also raided a house where Abedi’s brother, Ismail, lived and arrested a 23-year-old man, prompting speculation that Ismail had been detained.
This graphic shows the timeline of the horrifying night at the Manchester Arena which left 22 people dead
Security services are trying to establish whether Salman worked alone or was part of a wider network that helped him with the bomb.
A school friend told The Times that Abedi had returned to Libya in the past week.
The friend said: ‘He went to Libya three weeks ago and came back recently, like days ago.’
On Monday evening he placed a suitcase on the ground in the foyer of the Manchester Arena moments before it detonated, according to CCTV footage recovered by detectives.
The Daily Mirror have also claimed an investigation is under way on his ties with fellow Mancunian Raphael Hostey, also known as Abu Qaqa al-Britani, a known Islamic State recruiter from the city.
Speaking inside Downing Street following a meeting of the emergency committee Cobra, Mrs May said: ‘Earlier today I said the security services needed to investigate whether Abedi was working alone and these investigations continue.
‘It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack.
‘The joint terrorist analysis centre has concluded that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical.
‘This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely but a further attack is imminent.’
It means armed soldiers will patrol key sites across the country, at sporting fixtures and musical events.
Undercover SAS troopers will join regular soldiers in Operation Temperer.
She added: ‘We don’t want the public to feel unduly alarmed. We’ve faced a serious terrorist threat in this country for many years.’
She said the response was ‘proportionate and sensible’.
The Prime Minister said: ‘The liberal pluralistic values of Britain will always prevail over the hateful ideology of the terrorists. They proved that cowardice will always be defeated by bravery.’
Mrs May closed her statement saying the spirit of Manchester and Britain as a whole showed the terrorists would not win, and branded atrocities such as last night’s ‘sick plots’.
She said: ‘That’s why the terrorists will never win, and we will prevail.’
Tonight’s announcement comes after ISIS claimed responsibility for the worst terror attack Britain has seen since the 7/7 London bombings.
The suicide bomber, Salmon Abedi, was known to the security services but was not part of any active investigation or regarded as a high risk.
He died at the scene and police today carried out a controlled explosion at his home as chemical experts were seen outside with specialist instruments to check the property for traces of chemicals or explosives.
Born in Manchester on New Year’s Eve 1994, the third of four children, his parents were Libyan refugees who came to the UK to escape the Gaddafi regime and his father is a suspected fighter who left the UK in 2011 to try to overthrow the Libyan leader.
His father, Ramadan Abedi, is a former airport security worker, MailOnline can reveal.
He emigrated to London with his wife Samia Tabbal, 50, before moving to the Fallowfield area of south Manchester where they settled in a housing association-owned home about two miles from the scene of Monday night’s terror attack.
Friends and neighbour said Abedi appeared to be a normal football-mad teenager who was massive Manchester United fan and spent hours playing computer games on the PS4. He is said to have attended multiple schools in Manchester Claremont Primary School including Burnage Academy, William Hulme and Stretford Grammar School.
But everything changed in 2011 when his father abruptly left his job and home in the anonymous suburb to fight in Libya, leaving his family to fend for themselves, according to a local imam.
Abedi and his brothers appear to have followed in his footsteps by sharing stories of British jihadis fighting in Syria on social networks and even praying in the street.
The suicide bomber was heard chanting Islamic prayers in Arabic just weeks before the attack, a neighbour has revealed.
Lina Ahmed, 21, told MailOnline: ‘They were a Libyan family. A couple of months ago he [Salman] was chanting the first kalma [Islamic prayer] really loudly in the street. He was chanting in Arabic. He was saying ‘There is only one God and the prophet Mohammed is his messenger.’
Salman and his brother Ismail worshipped at Didsbury mosque, where their father is a well-known figure.
Ramadan is thought to be in Tripoli. His wife, Samia, is undestood to be in Manchester.
Some were shocked by Salman’s involvement in the terror attack. One member of Manchester’s Libyan community told the Guardian: ‘Salman? I’m astonished by this. He was such a quiet boy, always very respectful towards me. His brother Ismail is outgoing, but Salman was very quiet. He is such an unlikely person to have done this.’
However others had a different recollection of the 22-year-old. Mohammed Saeed, the imam of Didsbury Mosque and Islamic Centre, said Salman Abedi had looked at him ‘with hate’ after he gave a sermon attacking ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya.
He said a friend was so concerned that he got his adult children to sit beside Salman Amedi in case he attacked the imam.
Police were last night also quizzing his brother Ismail, 23, on suspicion of involvement in the bombing.
The IT manager, who is married to a maths teacher, worked for Park Cake Bakeries in Oldham until January. It is believed that Ismail, who worked as a teaching assistant giving Arabic classes and IT support at Didsbury mosque Quran school, was once reported to a counter- terrorism unit after concerns were raised by members of the Muslim community.
Witnesses described seeing crowds of people outside the concert hall on their phones trying to contact their parents
Leon Hall, who went to school with Abedi, told MailOnline he saw the killer last year and said he had grown a beard. He also said the jihadist was a keen Manchester United fan.
Mr Hall said: ‘I saw him last year and he had a beard thing going on. We didn’t speak but just nodded to each other. I don’t remember seeing him with beard before.’
‘He always had a bit of an attitude problem. I can’t say I really liked the man.’
Mr Hall said Abedi lived in a housing association owned home about two miles from the scene of Monday night’s terror attack.
Abedi’s younger brother Hashim, now 20, has posted comments on ISIS-supporting sites. He showed an interest in Reyaad Khan, the Welsh jihadi killed in a drone strike, and commented on a newspaper article when Khan’s mother appealed for her son to come home in 2014 before he was killed.
Hisham wrote: ‘Inshallah we go together, man.’
Abedi’s sister Jomana, 18, attended the school in Whalley Range that hit the headlines in 2015 when twin pupils, aspiring medical students Zahra and Salma Halane, left their homes and moved to IS-controlled Syria.
SAS DROOPS DRAFTED INTO MANCHESTER AS PM CONSIDERS PUTTING ARMED SOLDIERS ON STREETS
SAS troops were drafted into Manchester yesterday to support the police as counter terror officers launched a major operation to find friends and relatives of the suicide bomber.
The 20 strong heavily armed team were flown north as part of a contingency plan to counter any surge in extremist violence – such as a hostage situation – that will require military intervention.
Under the direction of the Counter Terrorist Command the soldiers, many of who have worked with specialist police unit in the past few years, were on standby to join undercover teams and armed response units deployed in the city.
The move came as Air Marshall Sir Stuart Peach, the head of the UK’s armed forces, told a Cobra meeting that the military was ready to put armed soldiers on the streets if directed by the Prime Minister.
As part of an ongoing high readiness response, codenamed Op Temperer, Army commanders have three infantry battalions of armed soldiers ready to deploy anywhere across the country to support the police.
The Prime Minister is understood to be reviewing a wider intelligence assessment from officers at the Joint Terrorist Analysis Cell, before making any decision on the deployment of armed soldiers on mainland Britain.
The rotation of available soldiers changes on a regular basis with paratroopers from 16 Air Assault Brigade currently listed as the ‘in role’ force ready to provide additional public security.
Five of the 22 victims have been named as college student Georgina Callander, eight-year-old schoolgirl Saffie Roussos, 26-year-old John Atkinson, Kelly Brewster, 32, and Megan Hurley.
The headteacher of the school of the youngest victim named so far, Saffie Roussos, said she was ‘simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word’.
Tracey Radcliffe, a leader at 1st Tarleton Brownies, added: ‘Saffie was an adorable and lovable little girl – she really was.
‘I didn’t know her parents, but she was just lovely. No one should go to a gig and not return.’
A close friend of victim Georgina Callander said she died in hospital with her mother at her bedside in hospital.
‘A CALLOUS AND COWARDLY ATTACK’: THERESA MAY’S SPEECH ABOUT RAISING THE THREAT LEVEL IN FULL
‘We again discussed the callous and cowardly terrorist attack in Manchester last night and the operational response from the security service, the police and other emergency services.
‘It remains the case that other than the terrorist himself, 22 people were killed in the attack, 59 people remain injured and many of them have life-threatening conditions.
‘As Greater Manchester Police confirmed earlier today, the perpetrator was Salman Ramadan Abedi, who was born and brought up in Britain and as the emergency services confirmed throughout the day, his victims were innocent children, young people and their families – our thoughts and prayers are with them all.
‘I want to re-iterate what I said this morning about the professionalism of the emergency services and the bravery of the people in Manchester.
‘Through their actions, they proved that cowardice will always be defeated by bravery, that evil can be overcome by good and that our values, the liberal, pluralistic values of Britain, will always prevail over the hateful ideology of the terrorists.”
‘In my statement earlier today, I said that the police and security services needed to investigate whether Abedi was acting alone. Those investigations continue.
‘But the work undertaken throughout the day has revealed it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack.
‘This morning I said that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the independent organisation responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of the intelligence available, was keeping the threat level under constant review.
‘It has now concluded, on the basis of today’s investigations, that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical.
‘This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely but that a further attack may be imminent.
‘The change in the threat level means that there will be additional resources and support made available to the police as they work to keep us all safe.
‘As a result of the JTAC decision the police have asked for authorisation from the secretary of state for defence to deploy a number of armed military personnel in support of their armed officers.
‘This request is part of a well-established plan, known as Operation Temperer, in which both the armed forces and the police officers involved are well trained and well prepared to work in this kind of environment.
‘The secretary of state for defence has approved this request and 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.
‘Precisely how the military and armed police officers will be deployed is an operational decision for police commanders, and Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police will be making a statement giving further details from Scotland Yard later this evening.
‘In the coming days and weeks there will of course be many events being hosted up and down the country. The police will work with the organisers and hosts of these events to come to a judgment about how they can go ahead while making sure the people who attend them are safe and secure.
‘I do not want the public to feel unduly alarmed. We have faced a serious terror threat in our country for many years and the operational response I have just outlined is a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face.
‘I ask everybody to be vigilant and to co-operate with and support the police as they go about their important work. I want to end by repeating the important message I gave in my statement earlier today.
‘We will take every measure available to us and provide every additional resource we can to the police and the security services as they work to protect the public. And while we mourn the victims of last night’s appalling attack, we stand defiant.
‘The spirit of Manchester and the spirit of Britain is far mightier than the sick plots of depraved terrorists, that is why the terrorists will never win and we will prevail.’