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Concert Bombing Was An Appalling Tragedy, British Ambassador Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The United Kingdom has raised its threat alert to the highest possible level, indicating fears of another attack after the attack this week in Manchester. The British army is to deploy about 800 troops around the U.K. to support police in the aftermath. Manchester Police said today they've arrested three men in connection with the investigation, which we're now going to discuss with the British ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Kim Darroch, welcome back to the program.

KIM DARROCH: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.

INSKEEP: And first, condolences to the people in Manchester and to the people of your country on yet another attack.

DARROCH: Well, thank you very much. It was a quite appalling atrocity. And all of us here at the embassy were shocked and horrified by it and send our condolences to the victims.

INSKEEP: What leads authorities to think there could be another attack?

DARROCH: Well, we are still trying to establish whether the individual who performed this appalling atrocity was part of a network or was acting alone and. In the light of that ongoing investigation, our security and terrorism experts have recommended to the government that we establish this critical level. It's an established procedure. It last happened about 10 years ago.

As you said in the intro, it means that there will be troops visible on the streets, releasing police to add - to assist the investigation. And it's a sensible and proportionate response to an assessment that there may be a risk of further attacks.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking about the clues we've heard about on this program this morning. Our correspondent Frank Langfitt in Manchester says that police authorities feel that the attacker, Salman Abedi, didn't have the skills to do this alone which suggests there might be someone behind him.

And also, our correspondent Greg Myre reported that the way ISIS claimed credit for this attack suggests that they might actually have been directly involved. Is that the evidence that leads people to fear that somebody else could be on the loose in Britain right now?

DARROCH: Yeah. I understand why you're asking. I don't want to get out ahead of what we have said in terms of announcements coming out of the British government. The home secretary has said that it is possible that the individual was not doing this on his own. And as soon as we can say more, we shall.

Let me take the opportunity to say we are getting quite exceptional cooperation from the U.S. intelligence and security authorities. That's an important element of the ongoing investigation. We are deeply grateful to the United States for what they are doing.

INSKEEP: I'm glad you mentioned that cooperation because it's made a little bit of news recently. Some British officials have indicated that they're unhappy that U.S. officials revealed information about the attack, including the attacker's name, before British officials were ready to do so. Are you raising that with the U.S. government?

DARROCH: We are, as I've said, in extraordinarily close contact with the U.S. government. The level of cooperation is exceptional. People here in America are working round the clock to support us in the investigations. And we could not be more grateful for what is going on.

INSKEEP: Does that mean you are or are not upset that this information was revealed a little early?

DARROCH: No. As I said, we're extremely grateful for the support we are getting, which is exceptional.

INSKEEP: OK. I want to ask another question about intelligence. As you know, Ambassador, President Trump was reported recently to have revealed highly classified Israeli information to the Russians in a meeting. The administration has denied some parts of that story but hasn't really denied the central thrust of it, which does raise a question for you.

And we should remind people that Britain and the United States collaborate about as closely as any two countries on Earth when it comes to intelligence. How confident is your government in the ability of the United States and the U.S. president to keep secrets when necessary?

DARROCH: The security intelligence relationship between the U.K. and the U.S. is the closest of any two countries in the world. It's crucially important to us, and we are absolutely confident in that relationship and in what we do together.

INSKEEP: And you're confident in the president's ability to keep secrets?

DARROCH: Absolutely. Absolutely.

INSKEEP: Have the various investigations of the president in this country - of course, it's not something you as a diplomat will want to comment on directly - but when the president is under investigation, does it affect practical relations between the United States and Britain trying to get things done?

DARROCH: We have established a really good relationship with the new administration here. As you'll remember, the prime minister was the first foreign visitor into the White House on the 27 of January. She and the president have spoken several times since the president was getting off the phone from his foreign trip to express condolences for the appalling atrocity in Manchester. And I have every expectation the relationship will get even stronger.

INSKEEP: OK. Ambassador, thanks very much for your time this morning, appreciate it.

DARROCH: Thank you. Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Ambassador Kim Darroch of the United Kingdom. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.