Britain hunts terrorist network after deadly attack
Hundreds of armed soldiers were deployed to protect key sites in Britain this week after a suicide bomber struck a pop concert in Manchester—killing at least 22 people and wounding dozens more—and authorities warned that another terrorist attack could be imminent. Police said that Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old, British-born son of Libyan immigrants, detonated an improvised explosive device packed with nuts and screws in the crowded foyer of Manchester Arena at the end of a concert by American singer Ariana Grande. Concertgoers, most of them teenage girls, described a scene of carnage. Abby Mullen, 17, said she saw people “running around with body parts missing.” Among those killed were 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos; 14-year-old Nell Jones; and Alison Howe, 45, who was waiting to pick up her teenage daughter. Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing, the U.K.’s worst terrorist attack since 2005, an act of “appalling, sickening cowardice.”
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, and officials believe Abedi might have received training from the group in Syria, which he may have visited during a recent trip to see family in Libya. The bomber’s father, Ramadan, and younger brother, Hashem, were detained this week in Libya; authorities there said Hashem was planning an attack in Tripoli. British police arrested at least five people in connection with the attack, including Abedi’s older brother, Ismail, and were seeking the bomb maker behind Abedi’s device. “It is very clear,” said Greater Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins, “that this is a network we are investigating.”
What the columnists said
This was a gruesome reminder from ISIS that it remains “a relevant force,” said Robin Wright in NewYorker.com. The group has lost 66 percent of its territory in Iraq and half its land in Syria to U.S.-backed forces. But it still has the manpower to stage atrocities in the West: An estimated 5,000 European jihadists, including 800 Britons, have headed to Iraq and Syria in the past three years. Even if these extremists stay in the Middle East, “they can still inspire attacks or ask friends” back home to take part in operations.
The West has become “too comfortable with terror,” said David French in NationalReview.com. We could reduce the danger by radically increasing our combat presence in failed states where the terrorists train—Libya, Syria, Yemen—and by reducing immigration “from jihadist regions.” But we’re not prepared to pay the necessary price in blood or political capital. “So there will be more Manchesters, more Parises, more Nices, and more Orlandos,” and every few months, “we’ll put memorial ribbons up on Facebook and Twitter.”
For now, there’s little that authorities can do to improve security at music venues and other crowded places, said Richard Winton in the Los Angeles Times. Many American and European stadiums and venues “already use metal detectors, bomb-detection technology, and armies of security guards” inside their facilities. But terrorists can render those safeguards moot by attacking crowds before they ever reach security—outside a concert or inside an airport arrivals hall. “There is always somewhere to hit.”