World

'Grey area’ exploited to deadly effect in Manchester blast

Foyer outside Manchester Arena was a public space

MANCHESTER: In an increasingly security-conscious world, the carnage inflicted by the suicide bomber at the Manchester Arena on Monday reinforced the notion that such attacks are nearly impossible to stop.

By exploiting a security loophole, the attacker walked into a crowded area and detonated his bomb, killing 22 people and injuring 64 others just after US pop star Ariana Grande's concert had ended.

Salman Abedi, 22, triggered the bomb in a foyer just outside the venue's doors.

The space that links the arena to the nearby Victoria rail station is a grey area, as far as security is concerned.

SMG, the company that manages the arena, said that it is not responsible for policing that space.

Parents had gathered there and were waiting to pick up their children and people were streaming through the area to get home after the concert when the blast ripped through the foyer of the 21,000-seat arena.

Abedi used an improvised explosive device, apparently packed with metal, to massacre concert goers and end his life.

Citing closed circuit television footage recovered by detectives, the Financial Times reported that Abedi had placed the device in a suitcase which he set on the ground before it blew up.

"It was within the walkway between the stadium and the station. This would have been an area with a high footfall with people leaving the stadium," security expert Will Geddes was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

People are at their most vulnerable when they are either leaving or arriving at a venue.Security expert Will Geddes

"People are at their most vulnerable when they are either leaving or arriving at a venue."

Witnesses said the noise of the explosion was followed by a flash of fire.

Pictures showed debris and casualties in the foyer area of the arena, with metal nuts and bolts strewn around the floor among bodies and the smell of explosives hung in the air.

The foyer is the busiest exit from the arena leading to the carpark, taxi ranks and into the station next door.

The arrests of three more suspects in Manchester yesterday means there are now four in custody.

British security services said that Abedi, who authorities stated had recently travelled to Libya and Syria, was part of a wider network.

The British government has raised the official threat level to "critical". It is the first time in a decade that it has reached the highest level, indicating an attack could be imminent.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said up to 3,800 soldiers would be deployed on streets, taking on guard duties at places like Buckingham Palace and Downing Street to free up police to focus on patrols and investigatory work, Reuters reported.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said: "Armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed force... You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events, such as concerts and sports matches."

While the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the attack, it is unclear if the attack was directed by the terrorist group or only inspired by it.

As investigations continue, Britain is a country on edge, with a host of summer concerts, sports and entertainments events looming.

Police arrested a man with a knife near Buckingham Palace yesterday, detaining him on a road just moments before a car carrying Queen Elizabeth passed by.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said the incident was not terror-related.

Security consultant Michael Downing, a former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said entertainment venues have become standard "soft targets" for terrorists.

"This is something we've been anticipating, something we've seen in the electronic magazines of Al-Qaeda and ISIS," Mr Downing said.

"They encourage attacks on stadiums and arenas, malls, transportation hubs."

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