Labour's Jeremy Corbyn has drawn government ire for positing that British anti-terror involvement abroad and police cuts raised the risk of Manchester-like attacks. Premier Theresa May says terrorism is inexcusable.
Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, resumed campaigning Friday for Britain's snap election by urging the nation to "be brave enough to admit the 'war on terror' is not working."
"Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, pointed out the connections between wars that we've been involved in or supported … in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home," said Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner.
He promised to reverse police cuts, many of them implemented by May in her former role as interior minister, saying Britain could not be "protected on the cheap."
From the G7 summit in Sicily, Prime Minister May accused Corbyn of suggesting that it was Britain's own fault for Monday night's suicide attack at a Manchester pop concert that claimed 22 lives, including children and teenagers.
"There can never, ever, be an excuse for terrorism," she said, adding that through Corbyn's utterances Britain's electoral choice on 8 June had "become starker."
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said counterterrorism was adequately resourced and condemned what she saw as a causal linkage drawn by Corbyn.
"To suggest that there is any link, that there is any justification, for the events that took place on Monday night in Manchester and UK foreign policy is outrageous," she said.
Security services had foiled 18 plots since 2013, Rudd added, referring to the Tories' term of government since 2010.
Between 2009 and 2016, police numbers fell by 14 percent, or almost 20,000, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think tank.
Survey shows Labour gaining
The verbal exchange followed apparent electorate gains by Labour. A YouGov poll published Friday put May's conservatives at 43 percent compared to Labour at 38 percent. The sampling was of 2,052 Britons polled on Wednesday and Thursday, in the wake of the Manchester bombing.
Previously, Labour had trailed the ruling party by a double-digit margin.
Corbyn's move Friday to focus on security - an issue little debated in previous campaigning - appeared aimed at former Labour supporters who shunned the party after former Labour premier Tony Blair backed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Two more arrests
Manchester police on Friday said they had arrested two more male residents in connection with the attack on suspicion of terrorism-related offences.
US pop star Ariana Grande also announced on social media that she would hold a benefit concert to raise money for the bombing victims. Some 75 injured survivors remain in hospital, including 23 in critical condition.
The Telegraph newspaper, without quoting sources, claimed that the suspected suicide bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, had learned to make bombs in Libya, his ancestral home.
Threat 'critical' for extended weekend
Rudd said on Friday that Britain's threat level remained at "critical" as residents headed into a three-day holiday weekend. Some 1,000 troops were deployed to assist counter-terrorism police.
"We must not let this terrible terrorist incident impact on our lives." Rudd said, adding that she hoped that Britons would take comfort while witnessing "some additional military presence."
ipj/kl (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)