Manchester Arena bombed at conclusion of Ariana Grande concert

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 23, 2017:

An explosion rocked the Manchester Arena in England at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert last night. At least 22 people were killed and 59 others wounded by the blast.

The Islamic State has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing. The message doesn’t provide any details about the bomber.

“With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in the British city of Manchester, in revenge for Allah’s religion, in an endeavor to terrorize the mushrikin [polytheists], and in response to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims,” the statement reads.

The Islamic State’s claim continues: “The explosive devices were detonated in the shameless concert arena, resulting in 30 Crusaders being killed and 70 others being wounded. And what comes next will be more severe on the worshipers of the Cross and their allies, by Allah’s permission. And all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the creation.”

The statement doesn’t indicate that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and implies that multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used. Also, the Islamic State claims that 30 people were killed, which is more than independent reports say.

It is suspected that a suicide bomber was responsible and it appears that only one bomb was detonated. It is possible that the terrorist responsible accidentally killed himself in the explosion. But the precise details still need to be confirmed.

Manchester police think that a lone individual detonated the IED, but they are investigating the possibility that other people were involved.

“We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe, at this stage, the attack last night was conducted by one man,” Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said in a statement released online. “The priority is to establish whether he was acting along or as part of a network.”

“The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena,” Hopkins added. “We believe the attacker was carrying an improvise explosive device which he detonated causing this atrocity.”

During a press conference this morning, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that authorities have identified the perpetrator, but his name cannot be publicly confirmed at this time. British officials are attempting to identify any possible accomplices.

Initial reports indicate that the bomb may have been packed with shrapnel, such as nails, nuts or bolts. The first issue of AQAP’s English-language Inspire magazine, which was released in 2010, provided step-by-step instructions on how to build such a device. The article, “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom,” instructed followers to “use iron pipes, pressure cookers, fire extinguishers, or empty propane canisters.”

“You need to also include shrapnel,” AQAP explained. “The best shrapnel are the spherical shaped ones.” But AQAP advised that jihadists “may use nails” if “steel pellets are not available.”

Similar explosive devices were used by two brothers in the Apr. 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which were celebrated in another edition of AQAP’s Inspire.

Improvised explosive devices were also used during the Sept. 2016 attacks in New York and New Jersey. The man accused of committing those bombings, Ahmad Khan Rahami, left behind a notebook in which he cited both Al Qaeda and Islamic State figures.

Although AQAP first sought to inspire would-be jihadists to carry out “lone mujahid” attacks in the West, the Islamic State has had more success in inspiring and guiding such plots since 2014. Islamic State members, such as Reyaad Khan, have used online applications to guide their followers in the UK and elsewhere.

Khan provided his would-be accomplices with “construction plans” for IEDs and also helped them identify “targets,” according to an investigation by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Khan was killed in Britain’s first targeted drone strike ever in Raqqa, Syria on Aug. 21, 2015. British officials justified the bombing by citing intelligence indicating that Khan and his co-conspirators generated threats on an “unprecedented scale.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Why the UK launched its first targeted drone strike ever.]

Most of the attacks connected to Islamic State in Europe have used vehicles, knives or other means, as opposed to IEDs. For example, a jihadist who struck near the UK Parliament in March drove his vehicle into a crowd, then jumped out and used a blade to assault other people.

A jihadist did use backpack bomb in a July 2016 attack in Ansbach, Germany. That bombing was also claimed by the Islamic State.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

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