Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Manchester attack: Fury as 'law enforcement' photos leaked to US Press

British ministers have voiced their fury to American counterparts after photographs apparently showing bloodstained fragments from the Manchester concert bomb were leaked to the US press.

The pictures appeared in the New York Times (NYT) just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd issued a plea to US authorities not to leak, sparking fury in Whitehall.

The disclosure is regarded as "completely unacceptable" by Britain, both because of the distress it may cause families of those killed or injured and because of the risk it could complicate ongoing investigations into the atrocity.

The row - which goes to the heart of the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the transatlantic allies - provides an awkward backdrop to Theresa May's meeting with President Donald Trump at the Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

A Whitehall source said: "We are furious. This is completely unacceptable.

"These images leaked from inside the US system will be distressing for victims, their families and the wider public.

"The issue is being raised at every relevant level by the British authorities with their US counterparts."

The leak comes after the name of the Manchester Arena bomber emerged in the US media on Tuesday hours before it was confirmed by UK police, who had earlier urged reporters not to publish speculation about the suspect's identity.

Ms Rudd said on Wednesday morning she was "irritated" by the early release of Salman Abedi's name and had made "very clear" to American counterparts that no further leaks should happen.

The Home Office declined to respond to the new leak, but pointed reporters to Ms Rudd's earlier comments in a clear indication that her stance had not changed.

A Downing Street spokesman made no comment.

The new pictures show torn scraps from a blue Karrimor rucksack as well as screws and nuts used as shrapnel and a metal item which the newspaper suggests could have been part of the bomb's detonator.

The NYT described them as "law enforcement images" but did not make clear how they had been obtained.

The nature of the photographs - one of which includes a ruler placed alongside the detonator - allowed no doubt that they were taken as part of the forensic investigation of the scene, and are not snapshots taken by members of the public.

The paper also published a map showing the location of the victims of the bombing, positioned in a circle around the site of the explosion in the arena foyer, as well as what is thought to be Abedi's torso some distance away.

Britain's intelligence links with the US are among the closest in the world, and information is routinely shared by security and intelligence agencies as part of the special relationship between the transatlantic allies.

The Home Secretary said she did not believe that the Americans had compromised the investigation.

But she added: "Quite frankly, 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, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again."

Congressman Adam Schiff, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, said: "If we gave up information that has interfered in any way with their investigation because it tipped off people in Britain - perhaps associates of this person that we identified as the bomber - then that's a real problem and they have every right to be furious."

The row is a fresh source of embarrassment for the US, a week after the Prime Minister was forced to give assurances that Britain still has confidence in the special relationship amid concerns relating to Mr Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials.

Sixth arrest

A woman has been arrested in connection with the Manchester bombing after armed police swarmed a block of flats in the north of the city.

Residents heard a "huge bang" as officers carrying firearms raided an address in Blackley on Wednesday evening.

Greater Manchester Police said: "A search was carried out and a woman has been arrested in connection with the investigation into the Manchester Arena incident."

Alex Finnie, 54, said armed police and "men who looked like soldiers" were involved in the swoop, which he believed was on the 12th floor.

He heard a noise which sounded like windows being blown out as police entered the flat.

He then saw a woman with dark hair and wearing a blue shirt with her hands cuffed behind her back and pressed up against a window.

He told the Press Association: "When the bang went I heard screaming and shouting and then they took the woman out.

"She was facing this way out the window and a couple of minutes later two armed police took her away.

"After the first one I heard loud banging on another door but on the same floor."

The woman was driven away in a police van, he said, adding that armed police were preventing residents from accessing the floor.

Resident Chris Barlow said there was a "huge bang" and "huge police presence".

"There was about 30 people on the street - they said there's been an explosion at the flats, a bomb or explosion," he told the Press Association.

"There's CTU (counter terrorism unit) special forces - I spoke to one officer and they said they blew the door in and took a couple of people away."

James Mooney, 27, said his sister was inside her flat on the 12th floor and had not been in touch since the "bang" sounded at around 6.50pm.

"I was on the phone to her," he said.

"There was a big bang and she went 'oh no' and she dropped her phone or something."

The family have been unable to get hold of Louise, 34 - but said police did not appear to think there was reason for them to worry.

"I told them my daughter is in there and they just said they would update us in a bit," father John Mooney, 53, said.

Police remain posted outside the building, with officers only allowing residents to access the last stretch of road leading to the block.

Read more:

Operation Temperer: 984 soldiers to be deployed in Britain, but none in Northern Ireland

My son is innocent, says father of alleged Manchester bomber

Critical terror threat level applies to Northern Ireland, says police chief Hamilton 

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph