The ISIS terror group has not claimed responsibility for an explosion that left at least 19 dead and 50 wounded at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, but its supporters are “celebrating” the incident on social media, according to experts.
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, tweeted, “No claim regarding blasting in Manchester, but ISIS accounts celebrating the attack, disseminating media and threats.”
Rukmini Callimachi, a New York Times reporter who covers ISIS and is a leading expert on the group, tweeted, “Since news of the blast, I have been scouring both ISIS and al-Qaeda channels. Neither group has taken responsibility. … It’s at times like these that it’s important to remind ourselves there is a difference between official ISIS channels & unofficial ones.”
ISIS supporters often celebrate attacks and incidents that injure multiple people in the West, but that does not always mean the terror group is behind the incident. In several cases, ISIS supporters who have carried out attacks have been claimed by the group as its “soldier,” while no evidence of any direct contact between the terror group and the supporter can be found. At this point there has been no statement from official ISIS sources, including its Amaq news agency. ISIS has called for attacks on concert venues, like its coordinated assault on the Bataclan, and has tried to inspire homegrown terrorists in the West, including in Britain.
Here are some other experts reactions to the chatter related to the attack:
Ariana Grande was not among those injured, her representatives said. The incident reported about 10:30 p.m. local time, after Grande left the stage and houselights came on, while people were beginning to exit the arena. About 20,000 people were in attendance at the sold-out show, including many teenagers and young people who came to see the pop star perform.
“This is currently being treated as a terrorist incident until police know otherwise,” the police department said in a statement. The North West Counter Terrorism Unit is treating the incident as a possible terrorist incident and is investigating, the BBC reports.
The explosion occurred in the foyer area of the arena, British Transport Police told The Sun. Sources told the newspaper the explosion was a “nail bomb attack,” but police have not confirmed that detail.
NBC News, meanwhile, is reporting that it was an attack carried out by a suicide bomber wearing a backpack bomb. NBC News’ Pete Williams, citing U.S. sources, reports there is “increasing confidence” it was a terror attack, while forensic evidence points to a bomb in a backpack.
Lauren Valentine Barrow, a local singer and concert booking agent, posted on Facebook, “I have heard from quite a few people that know staff from the arena saying that there were suicide bombers at the foyer entrance near McDonald’s. It’s not confirmed of course but all the things I am hearing are not good. I hope you are all safe.”
“There were just a loud bang and a flash and everyone tried to scramble out. An alarm came on telling everyone to stay calm but leave as quickly as possible,” Jade Baynes, 18, of Hull, told The Guardian. Another witness, Oliver Jones, also gave a description to The Guardian of what he witnessed:
I was in the toilet and heard a loud bang just after the concert had finished and people had started to leave. The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run. I seen people running and screaming towards one direction and then many were turning around to run back the other way. Security was running out as well as the fans and concert goers. Reports of blood and people injured. In so much shock and panic. You see this on the news all the time and never expect it to happen to you. I just had to run and make sure me and my sister were safe.
Another witness told the BBC she saw some people being injured in the stampede as people tried to exit after the blast.
“As we turned around the corner there was an horrific stampede of people coming down the steps, people falling on floor,” she told the news station. “I grabbed my daughter and we just ran. There were people being crushed on the floor.”
It is not known if police are searching for any suspects or if anyone is in custody. A video posted to Twitter, which you can watch below, shows armed police pulling a man out of a car and arresting him. The person who posted the video did not know the circumstances surrounding the arrest, which occurred in Manchester near the arena.
The U.K. terror alert was at “severe” before the explosion. The incident comes after an attacker inspired by the ISIS terror group drove a car into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge in London, killing four people and injuring more than 50, before crashing his car into the fence of the British Parliament and fatally stabbing a police officer. The terrorist, Khalid Masood, was then shot dead by another officer.
The incident also comes after raids on terror groups in London that led to at least four arrests, The Guardian reported on May 17. Police said the four men were arrested on “suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.” Met Police said, ” These arrests were pre-planned as part of an ongoing investigation by the Met’s counter-terrorism command and MI5. The arrests are linked to activity in the UK.” Police also carried out raids in late April, leading to arrests that they say disrupted two separate attack plots, including one man arrested in Westminster and another in north west London, where a woman was shot and subsequently charged criminally along with two other women.
The explosion also comes on the fourth anniversary of the death of a British Army soldier, Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was publicly executed by Islamic terrorists.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who is traveling in Israel, has been briefed, a senior White House official told NBC News. The NYPD, FBI and other law enforcement have said they are taking precautions in the United States as a result of the Manchester incident.
Follow the link below for updates on the incident: