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British Police Identify Suspect In Manchester Arena Suicide Bombing


Police in Manchester, England, have named the person they believe carried out yesterday's suicide bombing in the city. They say he was 22-year-old Salman Abedi. Twenty-two people died, and dozens were injured in the attack just outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester City Centre. And many of the victims are said to be children.

Now police are looking into Abedi's motivation and background. NPR's Frank Langfitt joins us now from Manchester. And Frank, just first describe where you are right now.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, actually I'm - I'm actually right out in front of this man's house. It's a working-class, mixed neighborhood here in south Manchester. It's a red brick house. And earlier today, according to neighbors, police came in here, and they did a controlled explosion. There are police - there's police tape up and still a lot of cops here in the area.

CORNISH: What are neighbors telling you?

LANGFITT: Well, it's interesting. You know, I talked to a bunch of them, and they didn't know much about this family at all. They saw them on the streets. They were not particularly friendly, frankly, and they said that - a couple of interesting stories. Maybe two, three years ago, there was a neighbor here who got a pamphlet about how to recognize radicalization and apparently called the police about the family, and the police came to visit the house. So people were aware of this.

I also talked to several neighbors who all corroborated this story. They said sometime back - not sure it was this family still living there at the time - there was actually a black flag with white Arabic writing flying from the house, so - which sounds like an Islamic - Islamist flag to me. So clearly the people didn't know the family well, but they were a family that people were aware of.

CORNISH: So you're saying the neighbors were raising concerns. But was Abedi actually known to authorities there?

LANGFITT: Yeah, he was, clearly. And right now what they're saying - police officially are saying, we're trying to - they're trying to determine if he was part of a radical Islamist network. Now, I've been on the phone with some of, you know, jihadi analysts that I know in London, and they say, yeah, that definitely he was a part of a network here. The intelligence agencies are saying - telling my sources that he was peripheral and not deemed a high risk.

Later on this afternoon, I talked to high-ranking Western government source who said that he had actually recently come back to Manchester from the Middle East. I believe the thought was he'd actually come from Libya.

CORNISH: In the meantime, is there any suggestion that he had maybe an accomplice?

LANGFITT: Well, they're definitely looking into that. And one of the concerns from people that I talked to is this was a very powerful and very effective bomb, as we know from the results. And this Western government source I was talking to - here's the quote. Our assessment is he did not have the skills to build such a bomb, and the conclusion is there's a bomb maker out there. So there's concern that he didn't do this on his own. He got help. And there may be somebody else who's out there who has this ability.

Earlier today, there was a 23-year-old man who was arrested here. We don't know whether they think he's the - you know, he was involved directly in terms of making the bomb. But they have made another arrest here in the city.

CORNISH: Frank, given what you've said to us here, is there any conversation about whether or not the authorities lost track of Abedi, about what happened?

LANGFITT: Well, it's really interesting, Audie. MI5 - they're the domestic intelligence agency here. They put out a statement today talking about how they were revolted by this attack and how they were relentlessly focused on keeping the country safe. I spoke with political analysts who said this showed them being pretty sensitive to what's been going on and concerned that people would think that they'd dropped the ball.

There have been attacks over the years here in the United Kingdom where they were familiar with the people who were behind it, but the people were still able to make these attacks. So that, especially also frankly coming in a U.K. general election - it's a very sensitive time in this country as well for an attack like this.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt speaking to us from Manchester, England. Frank, thanks so much.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.