The assailant was believed to be carrying an “improvised explosive device,” Mr. Hopkins said, though he declined to confirm reports that it had included nuts, bolts or nails as shrapnel. More than 400 police officers were involved in the operation overnight, he said.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, said he was overcome by grief, shock and anger. “After our darkest of nights, Manchester is today waking up to the most difficult of dawns,” he said. “These were children, young people, and their families. Those responsible chose to terrorize and kill. This was an evil act.”
President Trump, speaking at a news conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned what he called the “evil losers” responsible for the attack.
The attack came in the final stretch of campaigning before a general election in Britain on June 8, and the country’s political parties agreed to suspend campaigning. Opposition politicians — Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party, Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party — joined Prime Minister Theresa May in expressing their grief and condolences.
It remained unclear what effect the attack could have on the election. But difficult questions are already being asked about what security gaps might have abetted the attack, and what could have been done to prevent it. Ms. May led a meeting of the government’s crisis response committee Tuesday morning.
Although Britain is no stranger to terrorism, and Europe as a whole has become all too familiar with the human toll of terrorism in recent years, the Manchester attack caused particular anger and pain: It targeted a concert spilling over with girls in their teens or younger, with their lives ahead of them, out for a fun night.
Flags were at half-staff on Tuesday at Downing Street in London, where the prime minister works and lives, and at Manchester Town Hall.
Many Britons woke up Tuesday morning to news of the attack, which conjured memories of the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 at the Bataclan concert hall that left 90 dead, and those who had been at the Manchester concert were still trying to come to terms with what had happened. British television stations showed images of girls shrieking in horror as they fled the area. Many parents now face the challenge of dealing with traumatized children and trying to explain an event whose senseless violence they, too, are struggling to comprehend.
Two sisters, Elizabeth Hardy, 13, and Amanda Hardy, 15, were singing their favorite Ariana Grande song, “Break Free,” when a huge explosion ripped through the foyer of the Manchester Arena, sending both of them to the ground.
“I didn’t know what to do I just ran and left my sister,” Amanda Hardy recalled hours later, as she sat huddled up on a chair at the nearby Park Inn Hotel, still clutching onto a pink balloon she had caught during the concert. “It was my birthday, and the last thing I told Liz before the bang was that I had the best night of my life. Then I lost her.”
Their mother, Charlotte, followed the girls from a distance as they tried to get out of the arena. “There was a huge bang, followed by a stampede and then a burning smell,” she said, hugging her youngest daughter. “I tried to stay calm so I could find my daughters,” she added.
“I finally found Amanda lying on the floor, her tights were ripped and blood was coming out of her legs. I thought she was dying.”
At that point, she said, everything was a blur, as she tried but failed to reach her husband because her phone wasn’t working.
“There was no one to help,” she said. “I tried to put pressure on my daughter’s leg to stop the bleeding but she screamed out in pain. Her dad, who is in the hospital with her now, says she has shrapnel wounds.”
Ms. Hardy brought her youngest daughter to the hotel so she could get some sleep. “When the police brought her to me she was terrified, shaking and didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t take her to the hospital. I thought the bang was special effects and Ari would come back onto the stage.”
Elsewhere at the hotel, Lisa Conway, 49, watched as her 14-year-old daughter swirled her breakfast around her plate while a group of teenage girls lay huddled under several duvets on the hotel floor, silently staring into space, in a state of shock.
When Ms. Conway booked a room at the hotel over a month ago, she had imagined a jovial family breakfast after surprising her daughter with the chance to see Ms. Grande, her favorite artist.
“We came from Glasgow for this show. It was meant to be a dream not a nightmare,” Ms. Conway said, her lower lip quivering as she tried to contain her tears. “There were children, blood, shoes, phones splattered all over the floor.”
“We got lucky,” she added. “We ran and came straight to the hotel. How can I explain any of this to a 14-year-old? She hasn’t said a word since she woke up from two hours’ sleep.”
Ms. Grande, an American singer who started her career as a star on a Nickelodeon TV series, expressed her sorrow on Twitter. “Broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words,” she wrote.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said that the city was bolstering security measures, and leaders across the world sent their condolences and support to Britain.
President Emmanuel Macron of France expressed his horror at the attack, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain sent his condolences to the families of the dead on Twitter. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians were shocked by the news, while in Australia, people held a moment of silence for the victims.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany vowed to fight terrorism. “This suspected terrorist attack will only strengthen our resolve to continue to work together with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds,” she was quoted by Reuters as saying.
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