Ariana Grande Concert Blast: At Least 22 Dead, 59 Wounded in Suicide Bombing in Manchester

Trump condemns 'evil losers' behind attack ■ Netanyahu: Enlightened nations must cooperate to defeat terror ■ Man arrested in connection to attack, BBC reports

Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near the Manchester Arena, where Ariana Grande had been performing, after a deadly attack, Manchester, U.K., May 23, 2017.
Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near the Manchester Arena, where Ariana Grande had been performing, after a deadly attack, Manchester, U.K., May 23, 2017. ANDREW YATES/REUTERS

At least 22 people were killed and more than 59 were wounded in a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on Monday night, police confirmed, adding that children were among the attack victims. 

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement posted on Telegram. The BBC reported on Tuesday afternoon that a 23-year-old man has been arrested in connection to the attack.

>> Manchester attack to highlight security credentials ahead of U.K. election (Daniella Peled, London) >>

Earlier, British police said the attack was carried out by one man who died at the arena after detonating a device he was carrying. Authorities said it remained unclear whether the man acted alone. 

Reports from witnesses suggested that the attack may have involved a nail bomb, a weapon "used to magnify the destructive power of explosives," according to The New York Times.

Speaking outside her 10 Downing Street official residence, British Prime Minister Theresa May said police and security services knew the identity of the suspected bomber, but that the authorities were not ready to anounce the attacker's identity.

Following May's address, a shopping center in Manchester was evacuated and witnesses said they heard a "big bang." Scores of people ran away from the center, according to a Reuters witness. Shortly later, a witness said that the center was reopening.

U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the attack on Tuesday morning in his joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethelehem.

Speaking alongside Abbas, Trump condemned the "evil losers" behind the attack. "I won't call terrorists monsters, they would like that name. I will call them losers, because that's what they are," Trump said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemned the blast, which he described as "a terrible terror attack," and sent his condolences to the families of the victims.

Armed police gather at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig on May 22, 2017.
Peter Byrne/AP

"Terrorism is a worldwide threat and the enlightened nations must work together to defeat it everywhere," Netanyahu said.

Following the blast at the concert, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that "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.”

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of "severe," meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

Police warnings of a second suspicious device turned out to be abandoned clothing, not a suspicious item. A controlled explosion was carried out following the warning.

On Tuesday morning, British police closed and then reopened London's Victoria Coach Station and the surrounding streets due to a suspect package. Authorities said the package had been cleared and was not suspicious.

Grande said she was "broken" five hours after the bombing. Making her first comment since an explosion detonated just outside Manchester Arena at the end of her performance there, Grande said on Twitter: "broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words."

Representatives for Grande have said that the 23-year-old pop star was physically "okay" following the blast.

Emergency services personnel speak to people outside Manchester Arena after an explosion at the venue, May 22, 2017.
Peter Byrne/AP

Monday night's attack was the biggest in Britain since the July 2005 bombings in London, when a string of suicide bombings left 52 people dead and another 700 wounded. In March, three people were killed and another 20 were wounded in an attack near the Houses of Parliament in the capital.

The blast also came two and half weeks ahead of an election in which May is predicted by opinion polls to win a large majority.

Sky News reported that many of the gig-goers were teens and children that were separated from their parents following the incident.

A witness who attended the concert said she felt a huge blast as she was leaving the arena, followed by screaming and a rush as thousands of people trying to escape.

Armed police respond after the explosion at the Manchester Arena, May 22, 2017.
Peter Byrne/AP

"We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming," concert-goer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters. 

"It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out."

Downing Street will hold a Cobra emergency security meeting at 9 A.M. U.K. time. Cobra is the acronym used in the U.K. for the cross-departmental committee that meets to respond to national emergencies.

It takes place at the Cabinet offices and brings together ministers and senior officials from the security, intelligence and emergency services. The aim is to ensure a rapid and coordinated response from central government. The most recent Cobra meeting was called in the immediate aftermath of the March 22 attack on Westminster.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing, ISIS has made it clear that it considers concert halls to be a prime target for carrying out attacks.

A recent article in ISIS' publication Rumiyeh recommended attacking “any busy enclosed area, as such an environment allows for one to take control of the situation by rounding up the kuffar [unbelievers] present inside and allows one to massacre them while using the building as a natural defense against any responding force attempting to enter and bring the operation to a quick halt."

In 2015, 130 people were killed at the Bataclan venue in Paris during a performance by the Eagles of Death Metal band.

Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe, opened in 1995 and is a popular concert and sporting venue.

Manchester was previously the site for the largest ever-bomb to explode on the British mainland, in an IRA attack on June 15, 1996. A truck containing 1,500 kilograms of homemade explosives devastated a huge area of the city center, much of which was eventually rebuilt.

A rapid police response to a phoned-in warning meant that some 80,000 people were quickly evacuated from an area packed with Saturday morning shoppers. No-one was killed in the attack, although around 200 people were wounded. The bombing remains an iconic moment in the city’s recent history.

In 2009, police foiled a major Al-Qaida plot targeting Manchester. Pakistani national Abid Naseer had planned a mass bombing attack in the Arndale shopping center at the heart of the city over Easter weekend that year. Although the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to produce enough evidence to secure a conviction, Naseer was extradited from the U.K. to the United States in 2013 to face charges of plotting a separate New York attack.

There, evidence presented at the trial included incriminating emails in which the young man, previously trained at an Al-Qaida camp in Pakistan, appeared to discuss locations, dates and times for the Manchester attack, as well as proposed ingredients for home-made bombs. Police also discovered photographs of Naseer’s friends standing outside the various entrances to the shopping complex, already rebuilt following the 1996 IRA bombing. Aged 29, he was jailed for 40 years for multiple terrorism charges.