U.K.'s May Orders Troops to Concerts, Sports Events After Deadly Attack

Terrorism threat elevated from "severe" to critical," suggesting Manchester terrorist was part of network

U.K. Prime Minister May sent military to concerts, sports events as terrorism threat level is elevated to critical, for third time in history. Credit: Getty

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May deployed military troops to work with police at concerts, sports events and other public gatherings the night after a suicide bomber claimed 22 lives outside a pop concert at the Manchester Arena, the New York Times reports. After meeting with top intelligence officials, May raised Britain's terrorism threat level to the highest level, "critical," for the first time in a decade. 

"I do not want the public to feel unduly alarmed," May said in a statement earlier. "This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely but that a further attack may be imminent ... It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack." 

Armed military and police officers guarded large-scale soccer and rugby matches at the emblematic Wembley and Twickenham Stadiums on Tuesday night, May 23rd. High-profile concerts in the U.K. that evening include Eric Clapton playing London's Royal Albert Hall. Other artists touring large U.K. venues in the coming weeks include Iron Maiden, Adele and Elton John. 

Mark Rowley, Britain's most senior anti-terror officer, said he encouraged May to send military personnel as a support for police while the investigation was underway. "At this stage it is still not possible to be certain if there was a wider group involved in the attack," said Rowley, per The Guardian. Less than 12 hours after the explosion, police arrested another 23-year-old man in South Manchester believed to be an accomplice. 

"The work undertaken throughout the day has revealed that it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack," said May. 

While the British threat level is at "critical," military personnel will work alongside and under police authority in accordance with government guidelines. Bloomberg reports that the guidelines state that armed military assistance may be brought in, among other situations, after a terrorist attack so that police forces are not overwhelmed. 

May, once of the U.K.'s most experienced national security and anti-terrorism leaders, vowed to fight the "twisted, warped" ideology that inspired 22-year-old British man Salman Ramadan Abedi to target children and teenagers at the Ariana Grande concert.