The police accelerated their hunt Wednesday for co-plotters of the Manchester concert bombing, making at least a half-dozen arrests in Britain, searching for a possible clandestine bomb factory and extending the investigation to Libya, where two of the bomber’s relatives were detained.
The developments indicated that the bomber, Salman Abedi, 22, was part of a wider and more sophisticated plot than was initially thought and that finding the bomb’s origins had now become a priority in a country still reeling from the terrorist attack, the worst in Britain in more than a decade.
New details about the bomb, based on forensic photographs from the blast site, showed it may have been hidden in a blue backpack, had been made with cunning care to inflict horrific shrapnel damage, and had even been equipped with a backup detonation system.
A portrait of Mr. Abedi also came into focus, showing him to be a Manchester United fan, a college dropout and an occasional marijuana smoker who had visited his family in Libya last month, returned to Manchester as recently as last week, and may have been radicalized two years ago.
These details of his life emerged as the police sought what they called his “network” — the first official confirmation that investigators believed Mr. Abedi had help.
“It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” said Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd. Speaking to the BBC, she also said the bomb “was more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before.”
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police said, “There’s an extensive investigation going on, and activity taking place across Greater Manchester.”
Mr. Abedi detonated the bomb Monday night as fans were leaving a pop concert by the American singer Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. The explosion killed 22 people, including a police officer and an 8-year-old girl. The bomber’s remains were found at the scene, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
At least 64 people were wounded, a third of them critically. Many victims were teenagers and young girls, with parents in tow, who idolized Ms. Grande.
She officially canceled all concerts on her “Dangerous Woman” European tour through June 5 and asked fans to support “all those families affected by this cowardice and senseless act of violence.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Katrin Bennhold, Stephen Castle and Suliman Ali Zway