- Downing Street refuses to confirm US news reports of attacker’s identity.
- Reports of the attacker’s identity, the death toll and the fact that he was a terrorist suicide bomber all made their way into US media before being confirmed by UK authorities.
- May’s spokesperson was asked about concerns that information passed to the White House has been leaked.
- The PM spoke with Trump in the aftermath of the attack.
- Concerns put to Downing Street that the ongoing investigation may have been jeopardized.
LONDON — US officials appear to have leaked crucial information about the Manchester terror attack to the media before it had been confirmed by UK authorities — potentially jeopardising an ongoing investigation.
The police and Downing Street had refused to comment on the identity of the Manchester terror attacker on Tuesday afternoon, despite US news outlets widely identifying a suspect by name.
The Associated Press confirmed earlier reports on US TV news channels that US officials had named the suspect as Salman Abedi, 22, before either Greater Manchester Police or Downing Street had confirmed it.
BREAKING: US officials: British authorities have identified suspected Manchester suicide bomber as Salman Abedi.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 23, 2017
Reports of the attacker’s identity, the death toll and the fact that they were a suicide bomber all made their way onto US news channels before any official confirmation from UK authorities.
The reports led to concerns that the leaks could have potentially jeopardised the ongoing investigations into the attack. The US media reported the information before police made their first arrest, and while they were still conducting raids on houses in Manchester. It is not clear which branch of the US government the leaks came from — NBC’s report cited only “two U.S. officials briefed by British counterparts” late last night and this morning.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson was asked during a press briefing this afternoon whether Downing Street was concerned that information passed to the US had apparently been leaked without their consent by US officials.
Reporters asked whether the prime minister was confident that she could trust that such sensitive information could be passed to the White House in future.
The spokesperson replied simply that they “would not comment on leaks.”
Asked to confirm the name of the suspect, they replied: “Greater Manchester Police said that confirmation would take place after formal ID had been confirmed and that is where we are.” GMP confirmed the name late Tuesday afternoon.
The Prime Minister spoke to Donald Trump on the phone in the aftermath of the attacks. “She took a call from Trump shortly after Cobra meetings,” the spokesperson said. “He expressed his condolences and condemned what he said was a terrible attack. They agreed they had to work together to tackle the ideology behind the terrorist attacks.
The spokesperson told reporters that May had also spoken to the leaders of France, Italy and Australia, who expressed their condolences and promised to work together with Britain to tackle terrorism.
The PM has spent the afternoon speaking to emergency services in Manchester and also took part in a private visit to Manchester Childrens’ Hospital to see those affected by the attack.
The spokesperson confirmed that the PM had been up through the early hours of this morning before speaking to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “She spoke with the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn at around 4 in the morning,” the spokesperson confirmed.
“The issue everybody wanted to resolve that as a mark of respect the general election should be suspended.”
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