TERRORISM

Manchester mosque denies bombing suspect's role at center

The Manchester Islamic Center denied having any relations with the suspect in the Ariana Grande concert bombing after reports surfaced that the man worked at the mosque. 

"I assure everyone, this bomber has never worked in this center," Fawzi Haffar, the trustee of the Manchester Islamic Center, said outside the Didsbury Mosque on Wednesday.

Haffar blamed a "small section of the media" for "manufacturing" stories with unverified information. He condemned Monday night's attack at Manchester arena, where Salman Abedi blew himself up as Grande was wrapping up her concert, killing 22 people and injuring 119 others. 

"We encourage anyone who has information on the individual to contact police to assist with the investigation," Haffar said. 

The center, which has opened its doors to Muslims and non-Muslims since the 1960s, has received threats of verbal and potential acts of vandalism since the deadly explosion, Haffar said.

The Manchester Islamic Center did not take questions from reporters after the news conference, leaving questions about Abedi's father, Ramadan Abedi, and his role there unanswered. 

Authorities said they believe the 22-year-old did not act alone and they were investigating "a network" of people behind the blast. Four people have been arrested in the "extensive" searches across the city. 

"I think it's very clear this is a network we are investigating," Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said, confirming that an off-duty police officer was among those killed in the attack.

Officials are examining Abedi's trips to Libya as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats. Ramadan Abedi told The Associated Press that he spoke to his son five days ago and that Salman Abedi sounded "normal" while he talked about his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia. 

"We don't believe in killing innocents. This is not us," Abedi said. 

The government said nearly 1,000 soldiers were deployed instead of police Wednesday in high-profile sites in London and elsewhere.

Britain raised its threat level from terrorism to "critical" late Tuesday amid concerns that Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack. Abedi grew up in Manchester's southern suburbs and once attended Salford University there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.