Officer stabbed in attack at Michigan airport

(Reuters) – Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, was evacuated on Wednesday after a police officer was stabbed in the neck in what a U.S. government official familiar with the situation said was being investigated as a possible act of terrorism.

All passengers were safe, the airport said in a brief statement on its Facebook page. The officer who was stabbed is Lieutenant Jeff Neville of the Bishop International Airport Department of Public Safety, Michigan State Police spokeswoman Lori Dougovito said by telephone.

Neville underwent surgery after the attack and is stable, Dougovito said. Asked if the stabbing was under investigation as possible terrorism, the government official, who asked not be named, said “yes.”

The officer was stabbed inside the airport’s main terminal, Michigan State Police spokesman David Kaiser said in a telephone interview from the airport.

“We are aware of reports that the attacker made statements immediately prior to or while attacking the officer, but it is too early to determine the nature of these alleged statements or whether or not this was an act of terrorism,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit field office said in a statement.

Police have taken a “person of interest” into custody, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. Officials increased security at Flint City Hall, including additional police officers, in “an abundance of caution,” the statement said.

Bishop Airport is a small regional airport with two runways that has, on average, 16 commercial flights arriving or departing each day, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service.

The airport warned of potential cancellations and delays after the incident.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom Brown)

Britain’s May condemns ‘sickening’ attack as van rams Muslim worshipers

Police officers attend to the scene after a vehicle collided with pedestrians near a mosque in the Finsbury Park neighborhood of North London, Britain June 19, 2017.

By Alistair Smout and Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) – A van plowed into worshippers near a London mosque on Monday, injuring 10 people in what Prime Minister Theresa May said was a sickening, terrorist attack on Muslims.

Shortly after midnight, the vehicle swerved into a group of people leaving prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in the country.

The driver, a 48-year-old white man, was grabbed at the scene by locals and pinned down until police arrived.

“This morning, our country woke to news of another terrorist attack on the streets of our capital city: the second this month and every bit as sickening as those which have come before,” May told reporters outside her Downing Street office.

“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” said May who later visited the mosque.

The attack is the fourth since March in Britain and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians.

It also comes at a tumultuous time for the government with Britain starting complex divorce talks with the European Union and May negotiating with a small Northern Irish party to stay in power after losing her parliamentary majority following a snap election.

DRIVER DETAINED

The mosques’ worshipers, who come mainly from North and West Africa, had just left special prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Abdulrahman Aidroos said he and his friends had been tending an old man who had suffered a heart attack when the van was driven at them.

“He was saying ‘I wanna kill more people, I wanna kill more Muslims’,” Aidroos told BBC TV. He said he had helped tackle and detain the driver while other witnesses said the imam had stepped in to ensure the man was not harmed.

“Their restraint in the circumstances was commendable,” said Neil Basu, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing. The man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and police said they believed he had acted alone.

“I would like to … thank our imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, whose bravery and courage helped calm the immediate situation after the incident and prevented further injuries and potential loss of life,” said Toufik Kacimi, the chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House.

Police said 10 people were injured, with eight taken to hospital, two in a very serious condition.

The man who was being given first aid at the scene before the attack had died but it was not clear whether his death was directly linked.

Usain Ali, 28, said he heard a bang and ran for his life.

“When I looked back, I thought it was a car accident, but people were shouting, screaming and I realized this was a man choosing to terrorize people who are praying,” he told Reuters. “He chose exactly the time that people pray, and the mosque is too small and full, so some pray outside.”

Men pray after a vehicle collided with pedestrians near a mosque in the Finsbury Park neighborhood of North London, Britain June 19, 2017.

Men pray after a vehicle collided with pedestrians near a mosque in the Finsbury Park neighborhood of North London, Britain June 19, 2017.

POLITICAL TURMOIL

Just over two weeks ago three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight..

The latest incident also follows a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, northern England, in May which killed 22, while in March, a man drove a rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead. His attack killed five people.

May, weakened after losing her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election she had called to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks, has faced criticism for her record on security after the previous series of attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

She has also been criticized for her response to a fire in a London tower block last Wednesday which killed at least 79 people.

“Today’s attack falls at a difficult time in the life of this city, following on from the attack on London Bridge two weeks ago – and of course the unimaginable tragedy of Grenfell Tower last week,” May said.

She promised action to stamp out all forms of hatred, saying there had been far too much tolerance of extremism in Britain over many years.

Police had said hate crimes rose after the London Bridge attack and more officers would be deployed to provide reassurance to mosques.

The Muslim Council of Britain said Monday’s attack was the most violent manifestation of Islamophobia in Britain in recent months and called for extra security at places of worship.

Finsbury Park Mosque said it was a “callous terrorist attack” and noted it had occurred almost exactly a year after a man obsessed with Nazis and extreme right-wing ideology murdered lawmaker Jo Cox, a former humanitarian aid worker.

The mosque itself gained notoriety more than a decade ago for sermons by radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison in January 2015 after being convicted of terrorism-related charges.

However, a new board of trustees and management took over in February 2005, a year after Abu Hamza was arrested by British police, since when attendance has greatly increased among worshippers from various communities, according to the mosque’s website.

 

(Additional reporting by Ritvik Carvalho, William James, Dylan Martinez and Elisabeth O’Leary; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, Nick Tattersall and Michael Holden; Editing Jeremy Gaunt)

Iran says Saudi supports militants on its turf after attacks

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif smiles during the opening of the Oslo Forum at Losby Gods outside Oslo, Norway June 13, 2017. NTB Scanpix/Hakon Mosvold Larsen via REUTERS

OSLO (Reuters) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia was supporting militants inside Iran, days after hardline Sunni group Islamic State claimed attacks in Tehran.

Relations between the two neighbors are at their most tense in years. Last week Riyadh, along with other Arab governments, severed ties with Qatar, citing its support of Iran as one of the main reasons for the move.

Two days later, the suicide bombings and shootings in Tehran killed 17 people. Iran repeated accusations that Saudi Arabia funds Islamic militants including Islamic State. Riyadh has denied involvement in the attacks.

“We have intelligence that Saudi Arabia is actively engaged in promoting terrorist groups on the eastern side of Iran, in Baluchistan,” Zarif told a news conference held on the sidelines of a conference on peace mediation in Oslo.

Baluchistan province is home to a Sunni population who form a minority in majority Shi’ite Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia accuse each other of subverting regional security and support opposite sides in conflicts including those in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

“On the Western side, the same type of activity is being undertaken, again abusing the diplomatic hospitality of our other neighbor,” he said, without elaborating.

Iran also accuses the United States for Islamist militancy in the region.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

British police name third London Bridge attacker as Youssef Zaghba

People near the scene of the recent attack observe a minute's silence in tribute to the victims of the attack at London Bridge and Borough Market, in central London, Britain June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Estelle Shirbon and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) – British police named the third of the jihadis who killed seven people in a knife and van attack in London as Youssef Zaghba, 22, believed to be an Italian national of Moroccan descent.

The fallout from the attack eclipsed all other subjects in the political campaign ahead of Thursday’s general election, with both the ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour Party battling to defend their records on security.

Police said Zaghba had not been a subject of interest for them or for the MI5 domestic intelligence agency.

Earlier, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera had reported that Zaghba had been stopped at an Italian airport because authorities believed he was on his way to Syria, and that Italian officials had warned British counterparts about him.

In Britain’s third Islamist attack in as many months, the three men rammed a van into pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday evening before running into the bustling Borough Market area, where they slit throats and stabbed people.

Police had named the other two attackers as Khuram Butt, 27, a British national born in Pakistan, and Rachid Redouane, 30, who had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan. Butt was previously known to security agencies and had appeared in a British TV documentary called “The Jihadis Next Door”.

As these details have emerged, Prime Minister Theresa May has faced questions about her record overseeing cuts to police numbers when she was interior minister.

The latest opinion poll on voting intentions, by Survation for ITV, had the Conservatives’ lead over Labour narrowing to just one point from six points in the same poll a week earlier.

However, the consensus among pollsters remains that May’s party, who have been in government since 2010, will win a majority.

“ATTACK ON THE FREE WORLD”

Saturday’s rampage followed a suicide bombing that killed 22 adults and children at a pop concert in Manchester two weeks ago, and an attack in March when five people died after a car was driven into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge.

All three of the London Bridge attackers were shot dead at the scene by officers within eight minutes of police receiving the first emergency call.

The first among the dead to be named were Christine Archibald, a Canadian and Britons James McMullan and Kirsty Boden. The 48 injured included people from Britain, France, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, in what May called “an attack on the free world”.

“As she ran towards danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge, Kirsty sadly lost her life,” said Boden’s family in a statement on Tuesday. She was a nurse.

A nationwide minute of silence was held at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) to honour all the victims.

Before the recent attacks, Brexit and domestic issues such as the state of the health service and the cost of care for the elderly had dominated the election campaign.

When May called the election in April, her Conservatives led in opinion polls by 20 points or more.

But an announcement – made before the Manchester and London Bridge attacks – that they planned to make some of the elderly pay more for their care saw that lead start to shrink, to between one and 12 points now.

The polls have continued to narrow since the attacks took place.

Security has become the number one issue and both main parties issued statements on Tuesday portraying their own positions on policing and intelligence as the most robust.

(Additional reporting by Antonella Cinelli and Gavin Jones in Rome, Alistair Smout and William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Militants drive van into people on London Bridge, stab others

Police attend to an incident on London Bridge in London, Britain, June 3, 2017. Reuters / Hannah McKay

By Megan Revell and William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – Attackers drove a van at high speed into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in the nearby Borough Market area of bars and restaurants on Saturday in what British authorities described as terrorist incidents.

Armed police rushed to the scene and authorities urged Londoners on Twitter to “run, hide, tell” if they were caught in an attack. The BBC cited police as saying there had been more than one fatality.

Britain’s Sun newspaper said seven people were feared killed and that two attackers were shot dead by police near London Bridge; but there was no immediate confirmation of this. Some media reports said police were seeking another attacker.

The attacks come days ahead of a June 8 election and less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a pop concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The BBC showed a photograph of two possible London attackers shot by police, one of whom had canisters strapped to his body.

A Reuters reporter said some time after the attack began that he had heard loud bangs near the Borough Market area.

Witnesses described a white van veering into pedestrians near London Bridge and knocking over several people.

“A van came from London Bridge itself, went between the traffic light system and rammed it towards the steps,” a taxi driver told the BBC. “It knocked loads of people down.

“Then three men got out with long blades, 12 inches long and went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people at random.”

Islamic State earlier on Saturday sent out a call on instant messaging service Telegram urging its followers to launch attacks with trucks, knives and guns against “Crusaders” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Similar attacks, in Berlin, Nice, Brussels and Paris, have been carried out by militants over the past couple of years.

“Following updates from police and security officials, I can confirm that the terrible incident in London is being treated as a potential act of terrorism,” Prime Minister Theresa May said.

London’s river Thames police said it was working with the lifeboat rescue service to help evacuate people caught up in the attack, described by police as a terrorist incident.

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer U.S. help to Britain. The White House said he had been briefed on the incidents by his national security team.

One woman told Reuters she saw what appeared to be three people with knife wounds and possibly their throats cut at London Bridge at the Thames river. Reuters was unable to immediately verify her account.

People flee as police attend to an incident near London Bridge in London, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

People flee as police attend to an incident near London Bridge in London, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

STABBINGS ON THE STREET

Police said they fired shots after reports of stabbings in the nearby Borough Market area. They also responded to an incident in the Vauxhall area further west, but later said it was unconnected to the van and knife attacks.

Streets around London Bridge and Borough Market, fashionable districts packed with bars and restaurants, would have been busy with people on a Saturday night out. BBC showed dozens of people, evidently caught up in the attack, being escorted through a police cordon with their hands on their heads.

BBC radio said witnesses saw people throwing tables and chairs at the perpetrators of the attack to protect themselves.

One witness told the BBC she saw a speeding white van veering into pedestrians at London Bridge. That witness said the van hit five to six people. Reuters television pictures showed dozens of emergency vehicles in the area around London Bridge.

The incident bore similarities to a March attack on Westminster Bridge, west of London Bridge, in which a man killed five people after driving into a crowd of pedestrians before stabbing a police officer in the grounds of parliament.

Several witnesses also reported hearing gunshots.

“We were in an Uber (taxi) going towards London Bridge and suddenly we saw people running. The Uber stopped, we asked people what was going on – people said there was shooting,” said Yoann Belmere, 40, a French banker living in London.

“Now the area is completely closed with police cars going one way and ambulances going the other,” he told Reuters.

A witness told CNN two men had entered a restaurant in the Borough Market area near London Bridge and stabbed two people inside. He said a waitress was stabbed in the throat and a man was stabbed in the back.

The Manchester bombing on May 22 was the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, when four British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in coordinated attacks on London’s transport network.

Idle buses are seen from the west side of London Bridge after an incident in the area in London, Britain June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Idle buses are seen from the west side of London Bridge after an incident in the area in London, Britain June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Tattersall; additional reporting by Ralph Boulton, David Milliken and Paul Sandle; Editing by William Schomberg and Ralph Boulton)

Afghan families search morgues, hospitals after devastating truck bomb

Relatives of victims listen to hospital officials after a blast in Kabul.

By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) – It took nearly 24 hours for his Afghan family to discover Hamidullah’s broken body on the bottom shelf of a morgue at Kabul’s Wazir Akhbar Khan hospital.

Around him were placed the few personal belongings he had with him when he died.

“He was engaged and was about to get married,” his cousin Abdullah told Reuters, grief clouding his eyes as he stood in the barren morgue. “All of his and his family’s dreams remained unfinished.”

Twenty-year-old Hamidullah was on his way to his print shop in Afghanistan’s capital city early on Wednesday morning when he was killed by a massive truck bomb that exploded in the middle of a busy street, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 450.

While the intended target of the bomb remains unknown, the explosion occurred near the gates of a heavily fortified area of the city that holds many foreign embassies and government ministries.

Many of the victims, however, were working class Afghans, people who had managed to eke out livelihoods during years of violence and economic malaise.

For Hamidullah’s family, the first indication something was be wrong was the sound of a powerful explosion, followed by an expanding cloud of smoke rising over the city.

Calls to his cellphone went unanswered, and a growing number of extended family members joined huge crowds at hospitals around the city, all seeking news of friends and family caught in the attack.

“We went to several hospitals to find him,” said Abdullah.

The hospital in Wazir Akhbar Khan was one of several inundated with the wounded, and later, the bodies.

“I have never experienced such a day in all my life,” said one morgue attendant who asked for anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly. “All the freezers were full, and the dead bodies lined the road to the morgue as well.”

As of Thursday morning, as Hamidullah’s family gathered in small groups under the trees outside the morgue to wait for his father’s arrival, there were still a dozen unidentified bodies at the hospital, officials said.

Among those, around half are unrecognizable, the attendant added. Due to a lack of space, bodies had to be laid out on the ground and 20 were sent to a nearby military hospital.

VICTIMS REMEMBER

Among the victims were employees of Afghan and international media, a major telecommunications company and a bank as well as police officers and security guards.

Kabul’s Emergency Hospital received at least 108 victims of Wednesday’s attack, said Sakhi Shafiq, a team leader there.

From their hospital beds, survivors described the scenes of horror they had lived through.

“I felt my face and body burning and I felt blood coming out of my face,” said Karim Jan, speaking with difficulty.

With chaos all around, he staggered several blocks to Emergency Hospital where he remains, heavily bandaged, with shrapnel scars dotting his face and limbs.

Baqer Zmarai was walking to his job at the state television station and had just passed the German Embassy, which was heavily damaged in the blast, when the bomb went off.

“I fell on the ground,” he said from his bed at Wazir Akhbar Khan hospital. “It was hard to see my surroundings. I could hear people yelling for help.”

Surrounded by dirt, smoke, mangled cars and shattered buildings, Zmarai struggled to stand on injured legs.

“I tried to escape but I could not walk.”

While some of the wounded were able to go home, many remain in hospitals and the search for lost loved ones continues.

“I do not know if my son is dead or alive. I have to see and find him,” said Besmillah, who stood outside the locked gates of Emergency Hospital on Thursday, pleading with the staff to let him enter.

“I went to every single hospital but could not find my son.”

(Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Trump administration approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection arm patch and badge

By Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration has rolled out a new questionnaire for U.S. visa applicants worldwide that asks for social media handles for the last five years and biographical information going back 15 years.

The new questions, part of an effort to tighten vetting of would-be visitors to the United States, was approved on May 23 by the Office of Management and Budget despite criticism from a range of education officials and academic groups during a public comment period.

Critics argued that the new questions would be overly burdensome, lead to long delays in processing and discourage international students and scientists from coming to the United States.

Under the new procedures, consular officials can request all prior passport numbers, five years’ worth of social media handles, email addresses and phone numbers and 15 years of biographical information including addresses, employment and travel history.

Officials will request the additional information when they determine “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a State Department official said on Wednesday.

The State Department said earlier the tighter vetting would apply to visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”

President Donald Trump has vowed to increase national security and border protections, proposing to give more money to the military and make Mexico pay to build a wall along the southern U.S. border.

He has tried to implement a temporary travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority nations that a U.S. appeals court refused to reinstate, calling it discriminatory and setting the stage for a showdown in the Supreme Court.

The Office of Management and Budget granted emergency approval for the new questions for six months, rather than the usual three years.

While the new questions are voluntary, the form says failure to provide the information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.

Immigration lawyers and advocates say the request for 15 years of detailed biographical information, as well as the expectation that applicants remember all their social media handles, is likely to catch applicants who make innocent mistakes or do not remember all the information requested.

The new questions grant “arbitrary power” to consular officials to determine who gets a visa with no effective check on their decisions, said Babak Yousefzadeh, a San Francisco-based attorney and president of the Iranian American Bar Association.

“The United States has one of the most stringent visa application processes in the world,” Yousefzadeh said. “The need for tightening the application process further is really unknown and unclear.”

(Editing by Sue Horton and Lisa Shumaker)

Gunmen kill 26 in attack on Christians in Egypt

The Coptic Orthodox Virgin Mary church is seen during sunset ahead of Coptic Orthodox Easter in Cairo April 18, 2009. REUTERS/Tarek Mostafa

CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked buses and a truck taking a group of Coptic Christians to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 25 others, witnesses and the Health Ministry said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the unidentified gunmen had arrived in three four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Eyewitnesses said masked men stopped the two buses and a truck and opened fire on a road leading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority.

Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road.

The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilize the country.

“I call on Egyptians to unite in the face of this brutal terrorism,” Ahmed al-Tayeb said from Germany, where he was on a visit.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called a meeting of security officials, the state news agency said. The Health Ministry put the toll at 26 dead and 25 wounded.

Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 92 million, have been the subject of a series of deadly attacks in recent months.

About 70 have been killed since December in bomb attacks on churches in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta.

Those attacks were claimed by Islamic State. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein, Omar Fahmy and Mohamed Abdellah; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Louise Ireland and Gareth Jones)

Suicide bomber kills at least 22, including children, at Ariana Grande concert in Britain

People walk out of a support centre at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super

By Michael Holden and Andrew Yates

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and wounded 59 at a packed concert hall in the English city of Manchester in what Prime Minister Theresa May called a sickening act targeting children and young people.

May said police believed they knew the identity of the bomber and police then said a 23-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the attack carried out late on Monday evening as people began leaving a concert given by Ariana Grande, a U.S. singer who attracts a large number of young and teenage fans.

“All acts of terrorism are cowardly…but this attack stands out for its appalling sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” May said outside her Downing Street office in London.

“The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together.”

The northern English city remained on high alert. A Reuters witnesses said they heard a “big bang” at Manchester’s Arndale shopping mall and saw people running from the building. Police said they were dealing with an incident inside. The shopping center reopened soon afterward, a Reuters witness said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more police had been ordered onto the streets of the British capital.

Monday’s attack was the deadliest in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in 2005. But it will have reverberations far beyond British shores.

Attacks in cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St Petersburg, Berlin and London have shocked Europeans already anxious over security challenges from mass immigration and pockets of domestic Islamist radicalism. The Islamic State militant group has called for attacks as retaliation for Western involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Witnesses related the horror of the Manchester blast, which unleashed a stampede just as the concert ended at what is Europe’s largest indoor arena, full to a capacity of 21,000.

“We ran and people were screaming around us and pushing on the stairs to go outside and people were falling down, girls were crying, and we saw these women being treated by paramedics having open wounds on their legs … it was just chaos,” said Sebastian Diaz, 19. “It was literally just a minute after it ended, the lights came on and the bomb went off.”

U.S. President Donald Trump described the attack as the work of “evil losers”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it “will only strengthen our resolve to…work with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said the bomber’s explosives were packed with metal and bolts. At least 19 of those wounded were in a critical condition, the source said.

A video posted on Twitter showed fans, many of them young, screaming and running from the venue. Dozens of parents frantically searched for their children, posting photos and pleading for information on social media.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” concert-goer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

“It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest.”

Singer Ariana Grande, 23, said on Twitter: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” May, who faces an election in two-and-a-half weeks, said her thoughts were with the victims and their families. She and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, agreed to suspend campaigning ahead of the June 8 vote.

SUICIDE BOMBER?

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but U.S. officials drew parallels to the coordinated attacks in November 2015 by Islamist militants on the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris that killed 130 people.

“It clearly bears the hallmark of Daesh (Islamic State),” said former French intelligence agent Claude Moniquet, now a Brussels-based security consultant, “because Ariana Grande is a young singer who attracts a very young audience, teenagers.

“So very clearly the aim was to do as much harm as possible, to shock British society as much as possible.”

Islamic State supporters took to social media to celebrate the blast and some encouraged similar attacks elsewhere.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of “severe”, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

British counter-terrorism police have said they are making on average an arrest every day in connection with suspected terrorism.

In March, a British-born convert to Islam plowed a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before stabbing to death a police officer who was on the grounds of parliament. The man was shot dead at the scene.

In 2015, Pakistani student Abid Naseer was convicted in a U.S. court of conspiring with al Qaeda to blow up the Arndale shopping center in the center of Manchester in April 2009.

PARENTS’ ANGUISH

Desperate parents and friends used social media to search for loved ones who attended Monday’s concert while the wounded were being treated at six hospitals across Manchester.

“Everyone pls share this, my little sister Emma was at the Ari concert tonight in #Manchester and she isn’t answering her phone, pls help me,” said one message posted alongside a picture of a blonde girl with flowers in her hair.

Paula Robinson, 48, from West Dalton about 40 miles east of Manchester, said she was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from arena.

“We ran out,” Robinson told Reuters. “It was literally seconds after the explosion. I got the teens to run with me.”

Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents, telling them to meet her there. She said her phone had not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children,” she said. “There were lots of lots children at Holiday Inn.”

(Additional Reporting by Alistair Smout, Kate Holton, David Milliken, Elizabeth Piper, Paul Sandle and Costas Pitas in LONDON, Mark Hosenball in LOS ANGELES, John Walcott in WASHINGTON, D.C., Leela de Kretser in NEW YORK, Mostafa Hashem in CAIRO, and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ralph Boulton/Mark Heinrich)

Trump says concerns about Iran driving Israel, Arab states closer

U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd L) and first lady Melania Trump (3rd L) stand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R), his wife Sara (R) and Israel's President Reuven Rivlin (L) upon their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that shared concern about Iran was driving Israel and many Arab states closer and demanded that Tehran immediately cease military and financial backing of “terrorists and militias”.

In stressing threats from Iran, Trump echoed a theme laid out during weekend meetings in Saudi Arabia with Muslim leaders from around the world, many wary of the Islamic Republic’s growing regional influence and financial muscle.

Trump has vowed to do whatever necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, dubbing a peace accord “the ultimate deal”. But ahead of his Holy Land visit, he gave little indication of how he could revive talks that collapsed in 2014.

Trump will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Tuesday and the Palestinian leader said he hoped the meeting could be “useful and fruitful … (and) will bring results”.

But in the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians rallied against Trump and burned his picture and an effigy of him.

Trump received a warm welcome in Riyadh from Arab leaders, especially over his tough line on Tehran, which many Sunni Muslim Arab states regard as seeking regional control.

In Jerusalem, in public remarks after talks with Israeli leaders on the first day of his two-day visit, he again focused on Iran, pledging he would never let Tehran acquire nuclear arms.

“What’s happened with Iran has brought many of the parts of the Middle East toward Israel,” Trump said at a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin.

In his comments to Netanyahu, Trump mentioned a growing Iranian influence in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, where it either backs Shi’ite fighters or has sent its own forces.

Trump said there were opportunities for cooperation across the Middle East: “That includes advancing prosperity, defeating the evils of terrorism and facing the threat of an Iranian regime that is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering.”

He also welcomed what he said was Netanyahu’s commitment to pursuing peace and renewed his pledge to achieve a deal.

Netanyahu, in his remarks, did not mention the word “Palestinians”, but spoke of advancing “peace in our region” with Arab partners helping to deliver it.

Israel shares the antipathy many Arab states have toward Iran, seeing the Islamic Republic as a threat to its existence.

“I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran which you enunciated so clearly,” Netanyahu, who had an acrimonious relationship with former U.S. President Barack Obama, told Trump at his official residence.

Trump, who is on his maiden foreign trip since taking office in January, urged Iran to cease “its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias”.

REGIONAL STABILITY

Iran’s newly re-elected, pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, said regional stability could not be achieved without Iranian help, and accused Washington of supporting terrorism with its backing for rebels in Syria.

He said the summit in Saudi Arabia “had no political value, and will bear no results”.

“Who can say the region will experience total stability without Iran? Who fought against the terrorists? It was Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Syria. But who funded the terrorists?”

Rouhani noted the contrast between young Iranians dancing in the streets to mark the re-election of a leader seeking detente with the West, and images of Trump meeting with a galaxy of Arab autocrats, some of whose countries have spawned the Sunni militants hostile to Washington and Tehran alike.

He also said Iran would continue a ballistic missile program that has already triggered U.S. sanctions, saying it was for defensive purposes only.

Trump’s foreign tour comes in the shadow of difficulties at home, where he is struggling to contain a scandal after firing James Comey as FBI director nearly two weeks ago. The trip ends on Saturday after visits to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.

In Jerusalem’s walled Old City, Trump toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest place where Israel allows Jews to pray in a city sacred to three religions.

Trump will have visited significant centers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the end of his trip, a point that his aides say bolsters his argument that the fight against Islamist militancy is a battle between “good and evil”.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams)