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Attacker At Manchester Arena Sets Off Deadly Explosive Device

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Just a horrific scene last night in Manchester, England. An attacker set off a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert. At least 22 people were killed, more than 50 injured. This is the voice of Ian Hopkins. He is Chief Constable of Greater Manchester.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

IAN HOPKINS: Terrorists will attempt to disrupt our lives and create distrust and fear in our communities. We have a long history here in Greater Manchester of our community standing together during difficult times. It is important that we all continue to remain vigilant but that we go about our daily lives.

GREENE: Now, Abigail Walker went to this concert with her family. She told the BBC that she and her sister got separated from their parents when the bomb exploded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ABIGAIL WALKER: People were jumping off of, like, seating rigs. People were falling over. Everyone was just running. People were crying. They were in tears. There were sirens. Everyone was crying. We didn't know what was happening. And then we stood there for ages trying to figure out where everyone was. The police kept telling us to move back, move back. So it was absolutely terrifying.

GREENE: All right. Let's go now to NPR's Frank Langfitt, who is in London. Hey, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, David. Good morning.

GREENE: Just these stories that keep coming in and these voices, I mean, parents not being able to find their kids. Ariana Grande obviously, I mean, she has a lot of fans who are teenagers. So we're hearing these first-person accounts, but what are the authorities saying actually happened last night?

LANGFITT: Well, they're saying this was a suicide bomber who died at the scene. And they think that in terms of the bombing actually there, he was the only person who was involved in it. But what they want to try to find out is, of course, did anyone help him? Was he part of a network?

And what we've seen in the past in these terrorist attacks here in the United Kingdom is the police will - even once they identify the person, they will withhold the name so that they can then go out and do raids. They will look into their associates. They will try to see if there were people that they were working with.

And so that's one of the next things in the investigation to see. Do we begin to see raids in certain parts of the United Kingdom where whoever was responsible for this had friends, lived, worked that sort of thing?

GREENE: So we really know very little at this point about the attack and any ties - I mean, nothing.

LANGFITT: Very, very little. Exactly. And keep in mind, you know, this was a suicide bombing, so it's not like you had somebody who died and they had ID on them. This could be - the body could be very damaged. It may be hard to initially identify the person.

So this, for instance, you know, you remember you and I were talking about this back in March when there was this attack on the Westminster Bridge. Well, that man who hit a bunch of pedestrians on the bridge, they shot him, and they were able to identify him pretty quickly. This may be a different sort of case because the nature of the attack is very different.

GREENE: Frank, every community seems to respond to attacks like this in different ways. I mean, I'm always reminded of Paris and the attack on the cafes and the concert, and there was this feeling that it just struck at the heart of what Parisians are about, being able to go enjoy their lives outdoors. I mean, with kids here, this feels different in some kind of way.

LANGFITT: It does. And I think, you know, it's interesting, there are a couple of ways to look at it, David. Last night, what was very striking in Manchester, you got to remember, this is a very proud city. This is the home of Man United, maybe the most famous soccer team in the world.

GREENE: Yeah.

LANGFITT: Manchester folks are very, very proud of their city. People, cab drivers were offering people free rides away from the arena. People opened up their homes last night and - because there were so many concertgoers who were stranded. The Victoria station right next to the arena was shut down.

And so there was a great outpouring there and a lot of community pride and really a sense of standing up to whoever was behind this and showing this terrorist, and if there were others, that this is not a city that is going to bow to this kind of fear and terror.

GREENE: It's been a while since the U.K. saw an attack on this scale, right?

LANGFITT: It is. I mean, the last thing that would have been like this would have in 2005. If you remember, there were men with rucksacks. They - bombings on the tube here, the subway here in London, as well as a double-decker bus. I believe over 50 people killed. That was indiscriminate in a sense as the Westminster Bridge attack was indiscriminate in terms of people.

This, again, as you point out, it appears that they were targeting younger people. Which I was just talking to somebody coming in today who said, you know, how depraved do you have to be to focus on kids like this? And I think it'd be very heartened to see the reactions as we learn more from the community in Manchester and throughout the United Kingdom.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Frank Langfitt covering that attack last night in Manchester, England. Frank, thanks.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.