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UK Lowers Terror Threat Level to Severe05/27 09:33

   MANCHESTER, England (AP) -- Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a 
notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been 
made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. More arrests are 
expected.

   Prime Minister Theresa May said "a significant amount of police activity" 
and several arrests had led to the level being lowered. But she urged Britons 
to remain vigilant and said soldiers would remain at high-profile sites 
throughout the current holiday weekend. The troops will gradually be withdrawn 
from Monday, May said.

   A severe threat means an attack is "highly likely," according to the scale 
set by Britain's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. Until it was raised Tuesday, 
it had stayed at severe since mid-2014.

   Police made two more attests Saturday, bringing the number of suspects in 
custody to 11. All are men, aged between 18 and 44.

   Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, Britain's top counterterrorism police 
officer, said authorities have dismantled a "large part" of the network around 
bomber Salman Abedi. But he said there were still "gaps in our understanding" 
of the plot, as investigators probed Abedi's potential links to jihadis in 
Britain, Europe, Libya and the Middle East.

   Rowley said the investigation had made "rapid progress," and police "are 
getting a greater understanding of the preparation of the bomb."

   "There is still much more to do. There will be more arrests and there will 
be more searches," he said.

   Greater Manchester Police said two men, aged 20 and 22, were detained early 
Saturday in the northwest England city on suspicion of terrorism offenses. 
Police used an explosive device to get into a property to make the arrests.

   Investigators have searched 17 properties, including bomber Salman Abedi's 
home in south Manchester and other houses in nearby districts.

   Residents were evacuated from streets in the south Manchester neighborhood 
of Moss Side in what police called a precaution as one search was carried out 
Saturday. Photos showed an army bomb-disposal unit at the property.

   One of the searches was at an apartment in a Manchester high-rise that 
British media say was rented by Abedi in the months before the attack. Mohammed 
El-Hudarey, a friend of the landlord, said after Abedi moved out about six 
weeks ago there was a strong smell of chemicals and debris including metal rods 
and cut-up fabric.

   "We thought he must have been a drug dealer or doing witchcraft," El-Hudarey 
told the BBC.

   Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton of Libyan descent died in Monday's explosion, 
which killed 22 people and wounded dozens as crowds were leaving an Ariana 
Grande concert.

   Britain's health service said Saturday that 63 people injured in the bombing 
remain hospitalized, 20 of them in critical condition. A total of 116 people 
were treated in hospitals after the attack.

   Hundreds of soldiers have been sent to replace police at high-profile sites 
including Buckingham Palace and Parliament, and police armed with submachine 
guns are being deployed in city centers, transit hubs, tourist areas and major 
events.

   Despite the alert, police have urged people to go out and enjoy themselves 
over the three-day holiday weekend.

   More than 1,000 armed police are on standby as major events including the 
Football Association Cup Final and the Premiership Rugby Final are expected to 
draw tens of thousands of people.

   Manchester is slowly returning to normal, though the damaged arena and 
adjacent Victoria train station remain closed.

   Grande has promised to return to Manchester for a benefit concert. In a 
statement Friday, she said "I'll be returning to the incredibly brave city of 
Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of 
and to raise money for the victims and their families."

   "Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each 
other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than 
we did before," she said. "We will not quit or operate in fear. We won't let 
this divide us. We won't let hate win."


(KA)

 
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