Police treat stabbings at UK shopping mall as terrorism incident

By Peter Powell

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – British police said five people had been injured after a man lunged at passers-by with a large knife in a shopping center in northern England on Friday in a “brutal” attack officers were treating as terrorism.

The man attacked people around him and chased two unarmed officers shortly after entering Manchester’s Arndale shopping center in the heart of the city at about 11.15 a.m. (1015 GMT), police said.

He was overpowered by armed officers, with pictures on social media showing them using a stun gun to detain him. The man, in his 40s, was arrested on suspicion of terrorism although police said his motivation was not yet clear.

“He was armed with a large knife and … he began lunging and attacking people with the knife,” Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson told reporters.

“Two unarmed police community support officers … attempted to confront the attacker. He then chased them with a knife as they were calling for urgent assistance. The man attacked people around him and we understand five people were injured by him.”

Earlier, police said three people had suffered stab wounds; two women, one aged 19, and a man aged in his 50s. Jackson said the injuries were “nasty” but none had suffered life-threatening wounds.

“We do not know the motivation for this terrible attack, it appears random – it’s certainly brutal and of course extremely frightening for anyone who witnessed it,” Jackson said.

“We have the man we believe to be the attacker safely in custody. We will now be working to understand why he committed this awful attack.”

Britain has long been at a high state of alert and is currently at its second highest threat level, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.

Manchester was the location for Britain’s most deadly attack in recent years when Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, killed 22 people in May 2017 when he blew himself up at the end of a pop concert by Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena, not far from the Arndale center.

Islamic State said it was responsible in the immediate aftermath of that bombing, but security services have always treated the claim with scepticism. Abedi’s brother, who is suspected of involvement, was extradited from Libya in July.

“This is bound to bring back memories of the awful events of 2017,” Jackson said. “At this time we do not believe there was anyone else involved in this attack but we will constantly be keeping this under review.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “Shocked by the incident in Manchester and my thoughts are with the injured and all those affected.”

(Reporting by Michael Holden, James Davey, Costas Pitas and William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison)

Israel says Iran boosting effort to set up Hezbollah precision-missile plants in Lebanon

FILE PHOTO: A general view picture shows the Lebanese village of Adaisseh on the left-hand-side of the Israel-Lebanon border, as seen from Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel accused Iran on Thursday of stepping up efforts to provide its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon with precision-guided missile production facilities, a veiled warning to Beirut that Israeli counter-strikes could escalate.

Israel and Hezbollah, which last fought a war in 2006, are on high alert after Israeli drones were used at the weekend to attack what a security official in the region described as a target related to the militia’s precision-guided missile project.

Hezbollah has said it will retaliate for the rare strike in Beirut. The heavily armed Shi’ite movement has denied harboring such missile facilities. Lebanon has accused Israel of seeking pretexts for aggression.

Without claiming responsibility for the drone attack, the Israeli military went public with what it said were details about an extensive Iranian-sponsored project to provide Hezbollah with the means to produce precision-guided missiles.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said Iran had in recent months increased the pace of the project such that it was “faster in terms of buildings, facilities, locations, conversion and manufacturing facilities, and it means more people, operatives involved in doing so”.

“It is time for them (the Lebanese government) to understand their responsibility and understand the fact that what they are letting Hezbollah and Iran do on Lebanese soil is their responsibility,” Conricus said.

“They are the ones who are complicit in endangering Lebanon and Lebanese civilians which Hezbollah and Iran are using as human shields.”

(Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Frances Kerry)

Israel declares high alert over Iranian actions in Syria

FILE PHOTO - An Israeli soldier walks near a military post close to the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has instructed local authorities in the Israeli-held Golan Heights to “unlock and ready (bomb) shelters” after identifying what the military described on Tuesday as “irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria”.

The announcement came minutes before U.S. President Donald Trump declared he was withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, a move that has stirred concern about a possible regional flare-up.

Israeli media said the order to prepare bomb shelters was unprecedented during Syria’s seven-year-old civil war, in which Israel is formally neutral, though it has carried out cross-border strikes at suspected deployments by Iranian forces supporting Damascus and arms transfers to Hezbollah guerrillas.

Iran has blamed Israel for an April 9 strike that killed seven of its personnel at a Syrian airbase and has vowed revenge.

In its statement, Israel’s military further said that its defense systems had been deployed “and IDF (Israel Defence Force) troops are on high alert for an attack”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a televised address after Trump’s announcement, lauding the U.S. president’s hard tack on Iran and alluding to the tensions over Syria.

“For months now, Iran has been transferring lethal weaponry to its forces in Syria, with the purpose of striking at Israel,” Netanyahu said. “We will respond mightily to any attack on our territory.”

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)