British police have stopped sharing information on the suicide bombing in Manchester with the United States, a British counterterrorism source said on Thursday. The British police said intelligence leaks to US media risk hindering their investigation.
Police are hunting for a possible bomb-maker after the 22-year-old attacker, British-born Salman Abedi, detonated a sophisticated device at the Manchester Arena packed with children on Monday night, killing 22 people and injuring over 60.
The threat level "will remain at critical and the public should remain vigilant," British Prime Minister Theresa May has said. Critical is the highest threat level.
Intelligence leaks to US media
May also confirmed that she will "make clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between our law-enforcement agencies must remain secure" when she meets him at the NATO summit in Brussels today.
The decision to stop sharing police information with US agencies was an extraordinary step as Britain sees the US as its closest ally on security and intelligence. The leaks included confidential material, including bomb site photographs in the New York Times.
"This is until such time as we have assurances that no further unauthorised disclosures will occur," said the counterterrorism source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world," a spokesman for the National Police Chiefs council said, responding to the US media reports which leaked information.
"These relationships enable us to collaborate and share privileged and sensitive information that allows us to defeat terrorism and protect the public at home and abroad."
"When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships and threatens our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counterterrorism investigation."
The hunt continues
As the situation remained tense in Manchester, police responded to a call at a college in the Trafford area. Army bomb disposal experts arrived at the college but the reported suspicious package was deemed safe.
As the British police continue to hunt for potential accomplices who may have helped Abedi build the bomb, troops have been deployed to free up police officers for patrols and investigations.
After a series of police raids in and around Manchester, eight people are in custody in connection with the suicide bombing. British media have reported that one of them is Abedi's brother, but police have not confirmed that.
Abedi's father and younger brother were arrested in Tripoli in Libya, where the family originally come from.
Police are still trying to piece together British-born Abedi's past.
Network extends beyond UK
There is a growing concern that Abedi, who blew himself up in the bomb attack, could have been working as part of a group with possible links to militants who have the competence to plot and execute suicide bombings.
Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told reporters it was very clear they were investigating what he described as "a network."
Police have so far announced eight arrests, and special forces raided Abedi's home about 12 hours after the suicide attack. His brother, Ismail, was among those arrested.
His younger brother, Hashem Abedi was also arrested on Tuesday evening by Libyan counterterrorism forces in the capital Tripoli on suspicion of having links with Daesh, a force spokesman told the press in Libya.
"The concern is that there may be others out there who helped him to make the bomb. Making a bomb of this sort requires some degree of expertise and competence," a source with knowledge of the British investigation told the press, on condition of anonymity.
Queen visits the injured
Queen Elizabeth met some of the young victims of the Manchester bombing in hospital on Thursday as well as doctors, nurses and members of the emergency services who responded to the attack that killed 22 and injured more than 100.
The queen spoke to patients at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, where 19 casualties are still being treated after what she called the "wicked" blast, with five in critical care.
"She [Grande] sounds very, very good, a very good singer," the queen responded in footage broadcast by Sky News. "It's dreadful. Very wicked ... to target that sort of thing."
Eight hospitals in and around the northern English city treated 116 casualties injured in the blast after the concert on Monday evening, NHS England said on Thursday, and 23 remain in critical care.
UK confident leaks will end
British Interior Minister Amber Rudd is "confident" that leaks to the US media about the investigation into a suicide bombing in Manchester which killed 22 people will end.
"Home Secretary says she's 'confident' the leaks about Manchester attack to US media will now end," BBC political correspondent Vicki Young said on Twitter, referring to the interior minister by the commonly used title in Britain.
On Wednesday, Rudd had said she found the leaks "irritating" and expressed confidence that they would end. However, a new leak of photographs of the bomb site then prompted British police to stop sharing intelligence about the attack with US counterparts.