MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Investigators hunted Tuesday for possible accomplices of the suicide bomber who attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people and sparking a stampede of young concert-goers, some still wearing the American pop star’s trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Monday night carnage, which also left 59 people wounded, though a top American intelligence official said the claim could not be verified. British police raided two sites in the northern English city and arrested a 23-year-old man at a third location. The bomber died at the scene, authorities said.
The Cayman Islands London Office lists three Caymanians living in the greater Manchester area of northwest England, one of whom is 24-year-old law student Lloyd Barker Jr., who lives about one-third of a mile from where the blast occurred Monday night.
Mr. Barker did not attend the concert in the Manchester Arena, but said a friend and fellow student at the University of Law, Manchester Branch, did. Fortunately, she stepped out of the arena just before the explosion occurred, he said, adding that the police sirens and whirring of helicopters could be heard all night, into the early morning.
The area where Mr. Barker lives is “fairly peaceful,” he said, and any crime that occurs “almost never turns out to be something serious.”
He said that view seems to have changed since last night.
Fear in the neighborhood
“You can just see the fear really, people are continuously looking behind them,” he said. “It definitely puts me on alert because these incidents recently in London [referring to the stabbing attack outside Parliament] and Manchester … it just makes you wonder what’s next.
“It’s not easy just to go out on the streets and think it’s all good. I’m going to stay vigilant, but I can only do so much.”
London Office Director Eric Bush said the office has checked the welfare of the three Caymanians registered as living in the Manchester area and all are fine. Mr. Bush said the blast hit a bit close to home for him as well.
“My son and I were just in Manchester on Sunday watching a football game,” he said. “Too close for comfort!”
Premier Alden McLaughlin and Governor Helen Kilpatrick both sent condolences in the wake of Monday’s tragedy.
“It is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge the senseless terrorist attack on concert-goers in Manchester, England, on Monday night,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Our prayers, thoughts and sympathy go out to the people of Manchester and England as they pull together in the aftermath of this act of terrorism.”
Flags at all Cayman Islands government buildings were flown at half-staff Tuesday to mark the tragedy.
“We were all shocked and saddened to learn of the terrible events that took place in Manchester,” Governor Kilpatrick said. “This attack deliberately targeted children and young people and is therefore particularly despicable. Its intention was to sow fear, but it will not succeed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.”
Cayman Compass journalist Brent Fuller contributed to this report.