Detectives believe they have closed the net on the terror ring behind Monday night’s blast at the Manchester Arena after a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.
Two men, aged 22 and 20, were arrested in a raid on a property in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, in the early hours of yesterday.
A third man was arrested during a search of a property in the Moss Side area of the city.
Eleven people were last night in custody on suspicion of terror offences after 17 raids.
The terror threat has been downgraded to severe, but an attack is still 'likely'
We are getting a greater understanding of the preparation of the bomb. There is still much more to do. There will be more arrests, there will be more searches
Counter-terror chief Mark Rowley
Counter-terror chief Mark Rowley warned “more arrests and searches” could follow but downgraded the terror threat level facing Britain from “critical” to “severe” due to the “rapid progress” of the investigation into the network that helped 22-year-old Salman Abedi carry out the worst British terrorist outrage since the July 7 attacks in London in 2005.
Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday announced that troops deployed to protect key sites under Operation Temperer will gradually be withdrawn from the streets from tomorrow.
Mr Rowley, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: “We are getting a greater understanding of the preparation of the bomb. There is still much more to do. There will be more arrests, there will be more searches.”
Speaking after a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee, Mrs May said: “The public should be clear about what this means – a threat level of severe means an attack is highly likely. The country should remain vigilant.”
Mr Rowley said they are getting a greater understanding of the preparation of the bomb
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The terror threat warning was raised to critical for the first time in a decade in the aftermath of the attack.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins hailed “significant progress” in the investigation after disclosures that “key players” allegedly linked to the attack had been arrested.
The latest raids saw armed police and soldiers swoop on a three-storey maisonette in the Cheetham Hill area of the city at 2.30am yesterday.
A controlled blast was used to allow police access into the property.
Manchester bombing: Investigation so far Wed, May 24, 2017
The investigation so far into the Manchester bomb attack that killed at least 22 people, with more than 60 injured after Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in the Manchester Arena, at 10:30pm Monday, 22 May 2017
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Handout photo courtesy of Alex Finnie, of men wearing body armour during a raid of a block of flats in Blackley, north Manchester, following the attack on Manchester Arena
Neighbours said the family who lived there were Libyan and included a mother, her three sons and daughter.
Cab driver Majid Khan, 43, who lives opposite, said: “They were a nice family. I took them to Manchester Airport on a few occasions. I understand the father is an engineer who lives in Dubai.”
Another neighbour, Shakufta Bi, said: “They used to worship at the Al-Sunnah Mosque and Islamic Education Centre about a minute’s walk away. It’s known as the ‘Libyan mosque’ because most of those who go there are of Libyan heritage. One of the boys goes to university in Huddersfield, I think, while the other two are in college.
“We’ve been living here for 13 years and they were here before us. I see them coming and going quite a lot. They wore Western clothes most of the time and only really wore their I slamic robes when they went to pray.
Theresa May announced that troops will gradually be withdrawn from the streets
“There was a loud bang when they blew the front door open. I thought it was another bomb. I saw police with rifles pointed at the house and soldiers in the street. It was terrifying.”
The Al-Sunnah mosque remained closed yesterday as police continued to guard the raided home.
A 12th-floor tower block fl at, said to have been rented by Abedi in Blackley, Manchester, and where he may have assembled his bomb, was still being searched by forensics officers.
Abedi had stayed there until about six weeks before his attack.
Shocked residents also told how armed police arrested a man in a dawn raid yesterday in Moss Side.
Harriet Cutchie, 24, who was woken up at 6am by “a loud bang”, said: “I was very shaken.”