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Slaughter of the innocents in Manchester - UK threat alert raised to critical


By PA Reporters

An eight-year-old girl and a college student were the first people to be named as victims of the Manchester terror attack yesterday as the UK came to terms with the atrocity.

Twenty-two people were killed and 59 injured after a suicide bomber detonated a homemade device packed with nuts and bolts in the foyer of the Manchester Arena as thousands of young people were leaving a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande on Monday night.

The UK is now on critical terror alert with soldiers set to bolster police forces amid fears Manchester attacker Salmon Abedi did not act alone.

Saffie Roussos (8), who was killed in the attack, was described by the headteacher at her school in Preston as a "beautiful little girl".

Another victim was named by her college as Georgina Callander (18), who was studying health and social care at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire. And tributes have been paid to 26-year-old John Atkinson from Bury, who was named by friends on Facebook as an apparent victim.

Prime Minister Theresa May last night raised the threat level to critical, the highest possible rating.

She said a "wider group of individuals" could have been involved in the Manchester Arena blast rather than just suicide bomber Abedi.

Mrs May said Operation Temperer - allowing military personnel to take to the streets - is now in force.

Mrs May said: "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." Mrs May said 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," she said.

"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."

Mrs May said it meant that armed police officers responsible for guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, thus freeing up the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol.

"You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe," she said.

"In all circumstances members of the armed forces who are deployed in this way will be under the command of police officers."

The PM said that "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," she added.

The youngest victim named yesterday, eight year-old Saffie, had been at the concert with her mother Lisa Roussos and sister Ashlee Bromwich, who is in her 20s, from Leyland, Lancashire. They are both now in separate hospitals being treated for injuries, friends said.

Paying tribute to Saffie, Chris Upton, headteacher of Tarleton Community Primary School, said: "News of Saffie's death in this appalling attack has come as a tremendous shock to all of us and I would like to send our deepest condolences to all of her family and friends.

"The thought that anyone could go out to a concert and not come home is heartbreaking.

"Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly."

Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire, spoke of its "enormous sadness" after hearing of Ms Callander's death.

The teenager was on the second year of her health and social care course.

She was a former student at Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy, which said in a statement: "Georgina was a lovely young student who was very popular with her peers and the staff and always made the most of the opportunities she had at the school.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Georgina's family at this terrible time, and we think especially of her brothers Harry and Daniel who were also former students of the school."

Mr Atkinson's Facebook account has been "memorialised", a process only made possible by verified family members contacting Facebook directly.

"John was one in a million and loved by so many," wrote Hayley Turk, who organised the fund through website GoFundMe.

"A true gentleman."

Meanwhile, fears were growing for Chloe Rutherford (17) and Liam Curry (19), a couple from South Shields, 15-year-old Olivia Campbell from Manchester, Eilidh MacLeod from Barra in Scotland, Kelly Brewster from Sheffield, and Martyn Hett and Wendy Fawell.

All were believed to have been at the concert and have not been traced since the attack.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the barbaric attack, which involved a home-made device packed with nuts and bolts which exploded in the venue's foyer as thousands of young people were leaving.

However, the Islamist terror group often claims responsibility for attacks it was not involved in.

Abedi, believed to have been born in Manchester and of Libyan descent, studied business at Salford University but dropped out before completing his degree.

The 22 year-old is thought to have attended the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque, along with his parents and siblings.

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