Amber Rudd warned terrorists linked to last week's Manchester Arena atrocity could still be at large
Her comments came despite Theresa May’s announcement on Saturday that progress in the inquiry meant the official threat could be reduced back from “critical” to the second highest level, “severe”.
It means troops will be gradually withdrawn from key locations from today after soldiers helped provide extra security at major Bank Holiday weekend events.
She said: “It’s an ongoing operation. There are 11 people in custody, the operation is still at full tilt in a way, and so until the operation is complete we can’t be entirely sure that it is closed.”
The intelligence services are still collecting information about him and about the people around him
She defended British authorities amid claims that warnings received from Abedi’s community about him may not have been followed up, saying the murderer was at one time a “subject of interest” to MI5.
Ms Rudd said: “The intelligence services are still collecting information about him and about the people around him.
“But I would not rush to conclusions that they have somehow missed something.”
She added: “What this reminds us is the scale of the problem that we have, the enemy that we have, Daesh (so-called Islamic State), that is trying to weaponise the young people in our society.”
Ms Rudd said it is an ongoing operation
Ms Rudd stressed that the Government and emergency services had been prepared and “rehearsed” for such attacks, enabling them to cope “so well” last Monday.
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The intelligence services and police have foiled 18 terror plots since 2013.
Security services have said they are looking at 500 different plots and have had some 23,000 terror suspects, including 3,000 more serious cases, on their “radar”.
Ms Rudd admitted the Government did not know exactly how many British IS fighters had returned from Syria to the UK but said the authorities had the tools they needed to track them and “keep them out where we can”.
She revealed that temporary exclusion orders, which stop suspected jihadis returning unless they engage with UK authorities about their activities and views, have been used for the first time, although she would not say how often.
Manchester bomber Abedi allegedly joined his father in Libya during school holidays in 2011 to fight then leader Colonel Gaddafi.
There are claims he also visited Syria. Tarique Ghaffur, who was assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard in 2005 when terrorists bombed London, called for specialist centres to house, assess and de-radicalise thousands of suspected extremists.
Ms Rudd highlighted the Tory election manifesto promise to set up a commission for extremism to explore ways to root out the lethal ideology from Britain’s society.
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
She said the Government had made “good progress” with internet companies on letting police access encrypted message services such as WhatsApp to tackle terrorism, although some firms were “being more constructive than others”.
She was most concerned about online companies who continued to publish hate material designed to radicalise people in Britain.
Security Minister Ben Wallace has accused some social media giants of being “completely duplicitous”, saying they tracked users’ habits and sold the data around the world to enable other companies to target potential customers.
He said: “But when we, the state, say we have processes and warrants and we ask for that same type of data, we get this very twisted view of ‘Ah, but that’s surveillance’. They are ruthless moneymakers.”
Ms Rudd stressed that the Government and emergency services had been prepared for such attacks
Mrs May told the Sunday Express of her “harrowing” visit to meet some of Abedi’s young victims at Manchester Children’s Hospital, which she said had made clear the “intense trauma” the affected families were going through.
The Prime Minister also said it was “particularly sickening” that the attack had targeted children.
And US President Donald Trump, who met Mrs May at last week’s Nato and G7 summits, tweeted that Mrs May was “very angry” that information which British authorities had provided to their American counterparts about the Manchester attack was then leaked to the media in the United States.
Weekend raids left 12 suspects being quizzed over the atrocity. In Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, armed counter-terror officers swooped on an address and detained a 25-year-old man. A
nd in Moss Side, south Manchester, a raid on another address saw three men arrested but later de-arrested.