Today's LACP news:
May 25, 2017
Manchester bombing probe expands to Germany amid raids, arrests in Britain
by Griff Witte, Karla Adam and Souad Mekhennet
MANCHESTER, England — The investigation into a suicide blast that killed at least 22 people at a Manchester pop concert widened Thursday, with security services carrying out raids and rounding up suspects amid fears that the bombmaker who devised the bolt-spewing source of the carnage remains at large.
Police used controlled explosives to carry out a raid in the early hours of Thursday while also arresting two male suspects in Manchester. The arrests brought to eight the number of people in British custody who are suspected of involvement in the attack.
While the nation observed a one-minute silence at the stroke of 11 a.m. to honor those who died in the attack, a bomb disposal unit was called to the southwest of Manchester to investigate a suspicious package. The police later said that the area had been “deemed safe.”
Meanwhile, a German security official told The Washington Post that the bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, had been in Düsseldorf just four days before the bombing. The development signaled an expansion of an investigation that already has stretched to North Africa and continental Europe.
Authorities were investigating whether Abedi had possible contacts with extremists in Germany, including during a 2015 visit to Frankfurt, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Abedi was en route back to Britain from Istanbul when he stopped off in Düsseldorf.
The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel first reported the bomber's presence in Germany. The paper, which cited unidentified security sources, said Abedi, flew from Düsseldorf to Manchester last Thursday.
The disclosure was just the latest among a series of leaks in the foreign media that have outraged British investigators. British authorities have been particularly incensed by reports originating with U.S. officials. On Thursday, the BBC reported that British officials have decided to stop sharing information about the Manchester investigation with their American counterparts.
In a televised address on Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the threat level would remain “critical,” the highest state of alert. She also said she would “make clear” to President Trump when they meet later in Brussels that “intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said in a statement that leaks published by the New York Times, including pictures of the attack scene, have “caused much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss.”
British police chiefs also released a statement criticizing the disclosures, and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham lodged a complaint with the acting U.S. ambassador in London, calling the leaks “completely unacceptable.”
The controversy came amid an investigation into the broader network around Abedi that appeared to be rapidly gaining pace.
On Wednesday, the arrests stretched from the normally quiet lanes of a northern English town to the bustling streets of Tripoli, where Libyan officials said they had disrupted a planned attack by the bomber's brother.
But even amid the crackdown, British authorities acknowledged that they remain vulnerable to a follow-up attack.
The sight of soldiers deploying at London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street underscored the gravity of a threat that was known in general terms before Monday night's explosion but has come sharply into focus in the 48 hours since.
The morning after the attack, police said they believed that Abedi, a British citizen, had carried it out alone and had died in the blast he triggered.
But in their statements Wednesday, authorities expressed growing confidence that Abedi — who had recently returned from a trip to Libya and may have also traveled to Syria — was only one part of a web of plotters behind Britain's worst terrorist attack in more than a decade.
“It's very clear that this is a network we are investigating,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said police were moving quickly to disrupt the group, carrying out raids across the city and arresting four people, including Abedi's older brother, Ismail. A fifth suspect was later apprehended carrying “a suspicious package” in the town of Wigan, about 20 miles west of Manchester.
On Wednesday evening, authorities arrested a female suspect in Manchester and a man in the English Midlands town of Nuneaton.
A raid by balaclava-wearing police at an apartment in central Manchester spawned speculation that authorities may have uncovered the location where the bomb was built, although that appeared to have been unfounded.
Monday's explosion claimed victims as young as 8 and targeted fans of U.S. pop star Ariana Grande, who was performing at Manchester Arena.
In conflict-scarred Libya, counterterrorism authorities with a militia that is aligned with the U.N.-backed government said they had arrested at least two additional members of Abedi's family, including a younger brother suspected of preparing an attack in Tripoli.
Ahmed Dagdoug, a spokesman for Libya's Reda Force militia, said Hashem Abedi was arrested late Tuesday and is suspected of “planning to stage an attack in Tripoli.”
Dagdoug said Hashem Abedi had confessed to helping his brother prepare the Manchester attack. “Hashem has the same ideology as his brother,” Dagdoug said.
Abedi's father, Ramadan, was arrested Wednesday, although it was not clear on what grounds. Ramadan Abedi had earlier asserted that his sons were innocent, telling the Associated Press that “we don't believe in killing innocents. This is not us.”
He said Salman sounded “normal” when they last spoke five days ago. The elder Abedi said his son had planned to visit Saudi Arabia and then spend the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with family in Libya.
Dagdoug described Hashem Abedi as an operative of the Islamic State, which has asserted responsibility for Monday's blast.
It was unclear whether investigators believed that Abedi's relatives were a key part of the network planning the Manchester attack. But authorities were increasingly exploring the emerging connections between Britain and Libya.
Abedi, whose parents had emigrated from Libya to escape the rule of Moammar Gaddafi, was on the radar of British security services before Monday's attack.
But Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the nation's top domestic security official, suggested that he was not a major focus of any inquiries, telling the BBC that authorities had been aware of him only “to a point.”
Rudd said that Abedi had recently returned from Libya and that that was a focus of the investigators' inquiry.
Abedi was reported on Wednesday to have been a college dropout who had recently become radicalized. Security experts said it was unlikely that he coordinated the attack, and the BBC reported that he may have been “a mule” tasked with carrying out the bombing but had little role in creating the explosive or choosing the target.
Of particular concern to British investigators was the possibility that the bombmaker was still at large and may be planning to strike again.
Prime Minister Theresa May had cited the possibility of a broader network of plotters on Tuesday night when she raised Britain's alert level from “severe” to “critical” and announced the deployment of troops to guard key sites.
The impact on Wednesday was quickly visible.
In London, nearly 1,000 soldiers were sent onto the streets to help free up police. Cressida Dick, the police commissioner for Britain's capital, said the troops would stay until “we no longer need them.”
Hopkins said there were no plans to dispatch troops in Manchester. But armed police were more visible in the streets Wednesday than usual, and Hopkins said the deployment of soldiers in London would make more police available in other parts of the country.
“It's a very good thing. It's visibility, it's assurance,” said Geanalain Jonik, a 48-year-old tourist from Paris who was peering through the railings of Buckingham Palace.
A similar military presence has brought reassurance in Paris since terrorist attacks there in 2015, he said. “We don't have enough policemen, and when you see soldiers and troops in the streets, it's better,” he added. “It gives you the sense of feeling safe.”
But despite oft-repeated statements of national resolve and a refusal to give in to terrorism, authorities were making some changes Wednesday in light of the security situation.
Parliament announced that all public tours of the Palace of Westminster would be stopped. The Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace — a popular tourist attraction — was canceled.
Chelsea, the title-winning soccer club in England's Premier League, called off a planned victory parade through London. The team said it “would not want in any way to divert important resources.”
The cancellations came as Britain continued to mourn the dead, with moments of silence and memorial services in schools, town squares and other sites.
Hopkins said Wednesday that medical examiners had finished identifying all of the victims and that an off-duty police officer was among the dead.
Health officials said Wednesday that 20 people remained in “critical care” and were suffering from “horrific injuries.”
Monday's attack has been condemned by leaders both global and local. The mosque where the Abedi family worshiped — and where Ramadan Abedi had once been responsible for issuing the call to prayer — on Wednesday denounced the blast and expressed hope that Manchester can heal.
“The horrific atrocity that occurred in Manchester on Monday night has shocked us all,” said Fawzi Haffar, a trustee with the Manchester Islamic Center, also known as the Didsbury Mosque. “This act of cowardice has no place in our religion or any other religion.”
Younger brother of UK concert bomber arrested in Libya
Police said Hashim Abedi confessed that both he and his brother were members of the Islamic State group and that he "knew all the details" of the Manchester attack plot
by Paisley Doods and Maggie Michael
LONDON — British investigators are hunting for potential conspirators linked to the bombing that killed 22 people in a search that is exploring the possibility that the same cell linked to the Paris and Brussels terror attacks was also to blame for the Manchester Arena attack, two officials familiar with the investigation said Wednesday.
Investigators were also assessing whether Salman Abedi, the suspected bomber in the attack Monday on a pop concert in Manchester, may have been connected to known militants in the northern English city. Abedi, a 22-year-old British citizen born to Libyan parents, died in the attack.
Abedi's father, Ramadan Abedi, was allegedly a member of the al-Qaida-backed Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s, according to a former Libyan security official, Abdel-Basit Haroun. The elder Abedi denied that he was part of the militant group and told The Associated Press that his son was not involved in the concert bombing and had no connection to militants.
"We don't believe in killing innocents. This is not us," the 51-year-old Abedi said in a telephone interview from Tripoli.
He said he spoke to his son five days ago and that he was getting ready for a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He said that his son visited Libya a month and a half ago and was planning to return to Libya to spend the holy month of Ramadan with the family. He also denied his son had spent time in Syria or fought with the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the concert bombing.
"Last time I spoke to him, he sounded normal. There was nothing worrying at all until ... I heard the news that they are suspecting he was the bomber," the elder Abedi said.
He confirmed that another son, Ismail, 23, was arrested Tuesday in Manchester. A third son, 18-year-old Hashim, was arrested in Tripoli late last night, according to a Libyan government spokesman, Ahmed bin Salem. The elder Abedi was arrested shortly after speaking to the AP, Salem said.
The anti-terror force that took Hashim Abedi into custody said that the teenager had confessed that both he and his brother were members of the Islamic State group and that he "knew all the details" of the Manchester attack plot.
Ramadan Abedi fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi's security authorities issued an arrest warrant. He spent 25 years in Britain before returning to Libya in 2011 after Gadhafi was ousted and killed in the country's civil war. He is now a manager of the Central Security force in Tripoli.
The Abedi family has close ties to the family of al-Qaida veteran Abu Anas al-Libi, who was snatched by U.S. special forces off a Tripoli street in 2013 for alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, and died in U.S. custody in 2015. Al-Libi's wife told the AP that she went to college in Tripoli with the elder Abedi's wife and that the two women also lived together in the U.K. before they returned t Libya.
British police said Wednesday they had not yet found the bomb maker in the Manchester Arena attack, indicating Salman Abedi was part of a larger cell.
"It's very clear this is a network we are investigating," Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said.
British authorities were also exploring whether the bomber, who grew up in Manchester, had links with other cells across Europe and North Africa, according to two officials familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.
They said one thread of the investigation involves pursuing whether Abedi could have been part of a larger terror cell that included Mohamed Abrini, otherwise known as "the man in the hat," with connections to the Brussels and Paris attacks. Abrini visited Manchester in 2015.
Investigators were also looking into possible links between Abedi and Abdalraouf Abdallah, a Libyan refugee from Manchester who was shot in Libya and later jailed in the U.K. for terror offenses, including helping Stephen Gray, a British Iraqi war veteran and Muslim covert, to join fighters in Syria.
Other Manchester connections under investigation, the officials said, include a 50-year-old former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ronald Fiddler, also known as Jamal al-Harith. The Briton blew himself up at a military base in Iraq in February. He was one of 16 men awarded a total of 10 million pounds ($12.4 million) in compensation in 2010, when the British government settled a lawsuit alleging its intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Another possible link under investigation is whether Abedi had ties to Raphael Hostey, a jihadist recruiter who was killed in Syria, the officials said.
The sweeping investigation has caused friction between U.S. and British security and intelligence officials.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who said Abedi had been known to British security officials, complained Wednesday about U.S. officials leaking sensitive information about Abedi to the media, saying that could hinder Britain's security services and police.
"I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again," she said. It was unclear whether Abedi was under surveillance as recently as the attack.
U.S. Homeland Security Department spokesman David Lapan declined to say Wednesday if Abedi had been placed on the U.S. no-fly list. Under normal circumstances, he said, Abedi may have been able to travel to the United States because he was from Britain, a visa-waiver country, but he would have been subjected to a background check via the U.S. government's Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.
Lapan said the Homeland Security Department has shared some information about Abedi's travel with the British government, but declined to offer specifics. Customs and Border Protection has access to a broad array of air travel information through the U.S. government's National Targeting Center.
Theresa May was warned by Manchester police officer that cuts risked terror attack in the city
by Adam Bienkov
LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May was warned two years ago that cuts to community policing in Manchester had put the city at risk of a terrorist attack.
One-time Community Police Officer of the Year, Damian O'Reilly, made a heartfelt appeal to May to reverse cuts to local policing which had caused intelligence about possible attacks to dry up.
"I have worked in inner city Manchester for 15 years," O'Reilly told May at a Police Federation conference in 2015.
"I felt passionate about what I was doing [but] in 2010 I had to leave. I couldn't take it any more because the changes that have been imposed have caused community policing to collapse.
"Intelligence has dried up. There aren't local officers, they don't know what's happening. They're all reactive, there's no proactive policing locally. That is the reality ma'am."
He added that: "Neighbourhood policing is critical to dealing with terrorism. We run the risk here of letting communities down, putting officers at risk and ultimately risking national security and I would ask you to seriously consider the budget and the level of cuts over the next five years."
May, who was at the time Home Secretary, told officers that budgets would continue to be restricted.
At the time the police had seen a cut in funding of 18% with the loss of more than 17,000 police officers nationwide.
The Chair of the Police Federation today underlined the scale of the problem facing officers.
Steve White, who represents rank and file officers in England and Wales, said that while the deployment of soldiers on British streets was welcome, it only highlighted the strains British police were under.
"The welcome support of the military to free up armed officers and offer public reassurance will no doubt be managed in the same professional, resolute way," he said.
"But, as welcome as this is, we cannot avoid the reasons it is needed at all. There is no ignoring the fact that we, the police, simply do not have the resources to manage an event like this on our own."
How community-based enforcement will help close the trust gap
We need to try an enforcement approach that is tailor-made and designed by and for our specific communities
by Booker Hodges
Our profession has been under constant scrutiny and it's only going to get worse. As I watch chief law enforcement officers respond to accusations of unfair treatment by certain segments of the population, I often cringe when I hear the following phrase: “We don't racially profile, we just enforce observed behavior.”
They are being sincere when they make this statement, as most police officers are trained to enforce laws based on observable behaviors. Despite their sincerity, many in certain communities view this statement as confirmation of racial profiling. I have seen this many times in community meetings where a chief makes this statement and community members start shaking their heads and say, “See, this is what we are talking about!”
The notion that we make enforcement decisions based on observed behavior and not a person's race seems to be the central point of disagreement between our profession and those in certain communities. We are trained from the beginning of our careers to look for a certain set of behaviors and to make our enforcement decisions based on our observation of those behaviors. So, it makes perfect sense to us when we say we practice color-blind policing by enforcing based on behavior.
It's about perspective
Although this makes sense to us, we need to ask ourselves: Are we enforcing behaviors from a law enforcement perspective or from the perspective of the communities we serve?
I grew up in the inner-city but started my career in a suburban/rural area. On my second day of field training I observed a raised pickup truck driving through town with very loud dual exhaust pipes. I was in the rural part of our patrol area. I went to stop the truck for two very clear observable violations. As I went to stop the truck, my FTO looked at me and said, “You won't last long around here if you start stopping people for having a jacked-up truck and loud exhaust.”
What my FTO was essentially telling me was that enforcing these types of violations in this particular community was not something the community was going to tolerate. Had I stopped this truck I would have been enforcing behaviors from a law enforcement perspective and not those of the community I was serving.
I have found that most of the contention between us and certain communities we serve centers around the enforcement of traffic laws. I reached out to many dispatch communication centers around the country to gain a greater perspective on this issue.
I was seeking information on observable behavior, citizen-initiated complaints. In other words, were citizens calling, requesting that we enforce some of our most commonly-enforced observable behaviors? By observable behaviors I mean the following: suspended object from the rearview mirror, out taillight, out third brake light, out license plate light, loud exhaust, cracked windshield, riding a bike at night without a light, recently expired registration, and white light to the rear.
I have been guilty – and probably guiltier than most – of enforcing based on these types of observable behaviors. Unfortunately, like most of us, I was enforcing behaviors that I found to be important but those behaviors were not necessarily important to the community. I didn't find a single dispatch center in which a citizen called to complain about the above-mentioned observable behaviors.
Getting community buy in and ownership
I know people will read this and say we get a lot of bad people off the streets enforcing these behaviors. I would say you're right, but at what cost? Sir Robert Peel's second of nine principles reads as follows: “ The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect. ”
In certain communities it's obvious that we have lost our ability to secure and maintain public respect in part because of the behaviors we enforce.
I believe the solution to regaining the trust and closing the perception gap is to transition from our current behavior-based enforcement philosophy to one that is more community based. This could be accomplished by holding community meetings and asking community members which behaviors they want officers to focus on enforcing. By doing this you may get buy in and ownership from your communities. In addition, you may be surprised by what they tell you.
For my agency, this type of community engagement has worked in a similar fashion with our character-based hiring model. Our former Sheriff Matt Bostrom conducted community meetings to solicit the types of characteristics they wanted to see in the officers that were being hired. The list of characteristics that the community came up with was almost completely different from what he thought their responses would be. As a result of those meetings, we have hired deputies over the past six years who possess those community-directed traits and we have seen amazing results. The community was right; so much so that Bostrom is taking this character-based hiring method worldwide through Oxford University in England.
I know many will have a hard time buying into this, but after having a front row seat to how our enforcement actions are viewed in certain communities it behooves us to take a different approach. The current reactive-only policing that is taking place throughout many communities is not working. Instead, let's try taking an enforcement approach that is tailor-made and designed by and for our specific communities.
All communities want to trust their police and all police want to be trusted by their communities. We all have a shared responsibility in bridging the current trust gap. It's obvious that the current approach isn't working at reducing this gap. Maybe it's time to take a different joint approach.