Manchester terror attack: Was suicide bomber a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist?

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Police are trying to determine whether the person who blew themselves up in Manchester was a ‘lone wolf’ or part of a wider terror cell.

The working theory is that the perpetrator who triggered the blast – that killed 22 people and injured 59 others outside the Manchester arena – was working alone.

However, the national police counter-terror network, assisted by MI5, are urgently piecing together his background to see whether he had any help in planning the outrage.

Police are trying to determine whether the terrorist was working alone (PA)
The attacker struck after an Ariana Grande concert (PA)

They will be looking to build a picture of the attacker’s movements both in recent weeks and months as well as immediately before the strike.

Prime minister Theresa May said police believed they knew the bomber’s identity.

Police arrested a 23-year-old man on Tuesday in connection with the attack, while a controlled explosion was carried out in the Fallowfield area of Manchester.

Shashank Joshi, senior research fellow at security think tank the Royal United Services Institute, said: “The most important point is that police have found the body of what they believe to be the lone suicide attacker.

“If they have identified him, they will be able to begin establishing his movements, his contacts, and his background.

MORE: Manchester attack: Mother breaks down while making desperate appeal for missing daughter
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“This, in turn, will help establish whether he acted alone, in concert with a small number of other conspirators, or as part of a larger network.

“The method of attack is likely to downgrade the likelihood that this was perpetrated by a far-right individual or group, as they have not typically used suicide bombers.

“We know that both al Qaida and Islamic State seek to conduct attacks in the UK, and that the UK’s terror threat level has been at ‘severe’ for three years.

Authorities are trying to build a picture of the attacker’s movements (PA)

“Neither AQ nor IS have formally claimed the attack, and it is too early to speculate further.”

Another priority will be to establish whether any further linked attacks or copycat incidents are planned.

It is likely that the bomber’s communications will form a significant part of the inquiry, while investigators will also be checking if he was known to authorities in any way.

One area of focus will be examining the remnants of the device used in the attack as officers work to establish whether the perpetrator built it himself or had help.

At least 22 people were killed outside Manchester Arena (PA)

As well as seeking to identify any potential accomplices in Britain, authorities will also be looking into the possibility of any link to international groups.

The official threat level from international terrorism stands at severe in the UK – indicating that an attack is “highly likely”.

It has stood at this level – the second highest of five – since August 2014.

There has so far been no indication that this will change in the wake of the events in Manchester.

The Manchester attack took place on the fourth anniversary of the killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London.

Chris Phillips, the former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “That may be significant as well.”

Top pic: PA

Read more about the Manchester terror attack:

Video shows moment concert-goers flee in terror

Eyewitness accounts: ‘There was carnage’

First victim names as Georgina Callander

Mum breaks down during desperate appeal to find daughter

People in Manchester open their homes to help those affected

Sick Isis supporters celebrate bombing

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