May 23, 2017 7:38 am
Updated: May 23, 2017 9:14 pm

Manchester Arena attack: British PM May concerned another attack may be ‘imminent’

WATCH: UK Prime Minister Theresa May announces that they're raising the threat level from severe to critical and says another attack may be "imminent."

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Salman Abedi was identified as the suspect behind Monday night’s suicide attack that left at least 22 dead, many of whom are children, and injured over 50 more at Manchester Arena following a performance by Ariana Grande.

Speaking at an afternoon press conference, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins confirmed the 22-year-old as the suspected attacker.

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READ MORE: Salman Abedi identified as suspected bomber in Manchester attack; here’s what we know

“I can confirm that the man suspected of carrying out last night’s atrocity is 22-year-old Salman Abedi,” Hopkins said, adding the suspect has not been formally named by the coroner. “Our priority, along with the police counter-terrorist network and our security partners is to continue to establish whether he was acting alone or working as part of a wider network.”

Following the attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK’s terror threat level has been raised to critical which means the UK is prepared for another imminent attack, she said Tuesday night from Downing St.

Officials raised the threat level because they have not been able to confirm whether or not Abedi was working alone.

“It is a possibility that we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” she said.

May said critical status means armed soldiers may be deployed instead of police at public events such as sports matches.

The so-called Islamic State group (ISIS) had claimed responsibility for the attack earlier Tuesday.

According to terrorism watchdog SITE Intel Group, ISIS issued a statement in which the terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying one of its “soldiers” planted bombs at Manchester Arena.

“A solider of the Khilafah managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in the British city of Manchester,” reads a statement. “The explosive devices were detonated in the shameless concert arena.”

READ MORE: First victim identified as Georgina Callander, 18

The group also claimed “30 Crusaders” were killed and “70 others” were wounded, totals larger than what authorities have confirmed.

Earlier, police arrested a 23-year-old man in connection to Monday night’s suicide attack in what the British prime minister called “appalling, sickening cowardice” act of terror.

“We understand that feelings are very raw right now and people are bound to be looking for answers,” Chief Constable Hopkins said. “However, now, more than ever, it is vital that our diverse communities in Greater Manchester stand together and do not tolerate hate.”

Police said officers executed two search warrants as part of the investigation. Police are asking people to avoid Manchester city centre while appealing to the public for those who may have dash-cam footage from the city centre between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Monday night.

READ MORE: 22 dead in suicide attack at Ariana Grande concert, police say

Speaking outside of 10 Downing Street Tuesday morning, May said the bombing at Manchester Arena was “among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom.”

“Although it’s not the first time Manchester has suffered in this way, it is the worst attack the city has experienced and the worst ever to hit the north of England,” May said. “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice.

“Deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” May said.

Authorities began to identify the victims early Tuesday, including an eight-year-old girl and an 18-year-old college student.

Late Monday, Greater Manchester Police confirmed the bombing at the arena was a suicide attack and officials believe it was carried out by a lone male suspect.

WATCH: British Prime Minister Theresa May condemns ‘callous terrorist attack’ in Manchester

The explosion was reported at 10:33 p.m. local time as the concert drew to a close, investigators said. The exact location of the reported blast was not clear at the time, with a British Transport Police statement suggesting it happened in the arena’s foyer area, and the Manchester Arena tweeting that the incident “took place outside the venue in a public space.”

“The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosion device which he detonated causing this atrocity,” Manchester Chief Constable Hopkins said Monday night.

The British prime minister said many of those who remain in hospital are being treated for life-threatening conditions.

Earlier May said officials believe the attack was carried out by one man, but authorities “now need to know whether he was acting alone or is part of a wider group.”

WATCH: British Prime Minister Theresa May explains why authorities are not revealing suspect’s name in Manchester attack

“The police and security services believe they know the identity of the perpetrator, but at this stage of their investigations, we cannot confirm his name,” May said.

Earlier Tuesday, Greater Manchester Police called the attack the “most horrific incident we have we have had to face” and “one that we all hoped we would never see.”

“This is a fast-moving investigation and we have significant resources deployed to both the investigation and the visible patrols that people will see across Greater Manchester as they wake up to news of the events last night,” Hopkins said. “This will include armed officers as people would expect. More than 400 officers have been involved in this operation during the night.”

The police chief confirmed the attacker died at the arena in the attack and investigators believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device before detonating it “causing this atrocity.”

READ MORE: Manchester Holiday Inn, Premier Inn shelter kids and adults amid reported explosion

There was widespread confusion and panic in the immediate aftermath of the explosion as cellphone footage shows concert-goers running and screaming amid chaos.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters news agency. “It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out of the area.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “devastated” after learning of the attack.

“I was devastated when I heard about the innocent victims who were killed or injured at the Ariana Grande concert tonight in Manchester – many of them far too young,” the prime minister said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the people of the United Kingdom tonight, and we mourn with them the loss of so many innocent victims.”

U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the attack Tuesday, calling it the work of “evil losers.”

“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life,” Trump said during his visit in the West Bank. “I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term, they would think that’s a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers because that’s what they are, they’re losers.”

Trump went on to say that terrorism and those who aid it, “must be driven out of our society forever.”

WATCH: Concertgoers describe moment of blast as panic quickly set in at arena in Manchester, England

“This wicked ideology must be obliterated, and I mean completely obliterated,” Trump said. “And the innocent life must be protected.”

The Queen expressed her sympathy following Monday’s attack saying “the whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester.”

READ MORE: Mother makes desperate appeal for information on her missing daughter

“I know I speak for everyone in expressing my deepest sympathy to all who have been affected by this dreadful event and especially to the families and friends of those who have died or were injured,” she said in a statement.

Grande, who was not injured in the attack, took to social media saying she was “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

WATCH: Trump calls those responsible for Manchester attack ‘evil losers’

Security at the concert

Survivors of the suicide bombing said security screening ahead of the Ariana Grande show was haphazard.

Nikola Trochtova said she was leaving the venue when she heard the explosion. She told Czech radio that there was almost no security screening ahead of the concert.

It is still unclear how the bomber was able to enter the area undetected. The blast happened right after Grande left the stage and the arena lights went back up.

Pop concerts and nightclubs have been a terrorism target before. Most of the 130 dead in the November 2015 attacks in Paris were at the Bataclan concert hall, which gunmen struck during a performance by Eagles of Death Metal.

In Turkey, 39 people died when a gunman attacked New Year’s revelers at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul.

Pre-event security protocols vary country by country and according to venues. Security experts say one protective measure that could have been taken was extending the security perimeter around the Manchester arena.

with files from the Associated Press and Rebecca Joseph 

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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