YP Comment: Nation mourns terror victims - Worst UK attack since 2005

People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, in the wake of the terrorist attack. (PA).People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, in the wake of the terrorist attack. (PA).
People gather ahead of a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, in the wake of the terrorist attack. (PA).
They were ordinary families and friends enjoying a night out at a pop concert '“ mothers and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends, teenagers and schoolchildren.

But what started as a memorable evening for the crowds that filled Manchester Arena to watch US singer Ariana Grande, ended in horror at 10.33pm when a lone male suicide attacker set off a homemade bomb in the foyer in the worst terrorist attack in Britain since the July 7 bombings in 2005.

Our thoughts and prayers are with families mourning loved ones killed in the carnage which unfolded with terrifying speed and without warning in the heart of Manchester.

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In an emotive statement the Prime Minister Theresa May condemned what she described as an “appalling, sickening, terrorist attack” that targeted “defenceless young people”, as stricken parents, relatives and friends of those still missing flooded social media with photographs and desperate messages calling for help to try and track them down.

Monday night’s atrocity comes just two months after the Westminster attack in which Khalid Masood killed five people before being shot dead by police, and four years to the day since the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight on a busy London street.

It is another stark and sombre reminder of the unenviable job facing our security services who work around the clock to keep the nation safe.

Though they have thwarted 13 terror attacks in the UK since 2013, Mark Rowley, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, revealed earlier this year that more than 500 investigations are active, and the hard reality is the police have to be successful every time; terrorists only need to succeed once.

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It’s in the wake of this latest suicide incident that we again find ourselves indebted to the professionalism and bravery of our emergency services who work to the highest standard even when it places them in danger. This was in evidence as they sought to aid and comfort the maimed and injured following the explosion.

The fact that the cowardly perpetrator of this latest attack was able to unleash such devastation in a public space will, inevitably, lead to questions of what more can be done to protect people at large public gatherings.

In truth, there are no easy answers and as the criminal investigation gathers pace over the coming days and weeks there will no doubt be searching questions put to our intelligence community.

This isn’t the first time that Manchester has come face to face with terrorism. Twenty-one years ago the city’s Arndale shopping centre was destroyed by an IRA bomb – the biggest detonated in Britain since the Second World War. On that occasion a phoned warning from the IRA allowed the area to be evacuated.

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It’s a marked difference from the ever-shifting and indiscriminate threat we face today where attacks happen without warning and with the stated aim of causing the maximum loss of life, irrespective of who the victims are.

World leaders were quick to offer their support and solidarity with Britain. Many, including Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, have experienced recent terrorist atrocities in their own countries.

For make no mistake, this is a global battle against extremism that on Monday night brought death and mayhem to the streets of Manchester.

However, Britain must not, and will not, surrender to those warped minds who seek to destroy our cherished principles of liberty and freedom.

Spirit of Britain - Humanity prevails over hatred

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As a stunned nation struggled to come to terms with the senseless carnage unleashed in Manchester on Monday night, the message from the city was one of unity and defiance.

Amid the harrowing reports of those caught up in the explosion there were individual stories of quiet heroism and compassion, stories of taxi drivers running people home for free, of people offering up their homes to stranded strangers without a second thought, and queues of people, numbering in their hundreds, lining up to donate blood.

On a day when General Election campaigning was suspended in the wake of the attacks this was the country at its very best. Theresa May spoke for us all when she praised the ‘spirit’ of Manchester and Britain, a spirit that ‘will never be broken’ by terrorism.

The Prime Minister said: “While we experienced the worst of humanity in Manchester, we also saw the best. The cowardice of the attacker met the bravery of the emergency services and the people of Manchester.

“The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together and in the days ahead, those must be the things that we remember.”