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Terrorism

Manchester resilient in the face of terrorism

Manchester has been quiet but determined to stand together as a united, multicultural metropolis after the attack. Residents spoke to DW about their fears and bitter memories of past violence.

An unusual hush has fallen around the city of Manchester. The normal bustle of the rush hour commuter gridlock had become a quiet procession of foot traffic as much of the city's public transportation was also out of service on Tuesday. Police have cordoned off the downtown area near Manchester Arena, where 22 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a suspected terrorist attack during a concert of pop singer Ariana Grande.

"It's a calm atmosphere. It's really strange, it's normally bustling at this time, it's quite a different Manchester," Steve White, a financial advisor, told DW on his way to work.

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While many expressed their shock and sadness, particularly as Grande's popularity amongst teenagers meant that there could be a high number of young people amongst the dead, inhabitants made it clear that they would not be spurred to hate by the attack. Indeed, it was much more important to them that they stick together.   

"It brings out the people's good spirit," White said, referring to the sense of solidarity that could be felt throughout the city in the wake of the attack. Indeed, almost immediately after the explosion, #RoomForManchester began trending on social media as locals were offering their homes to those affected by the violence.

Read: Are Europeans getting used to terror attacks?

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, and while some on social media have thrown around speculations that it may have been Islamist in nature, police were careful to downplay the suggestions until more was known about the bombing. But the people of Manchester wanted it known that they took pride in their multicultural identity. In a city that is about 16 percent Muslim, they were suffering together as Mancunians.

People on the street were determined not to let terrorism deter them from their routine. If they couldn't drive to work, they would walk and carry on with their lives.

Bitter memories of IRA violence

For many residents of the city old enough to remember The Troubles, it brought back unpleasant memories of conflict with the terrorist Irish Republican Army (IRA) - but also drove home that, over decades, the threat of terrorism is something Manchester has had to get used to.

"It made me think back to 1996…all the memories came back," said Steve White, referring to a truck bombing carried out by the IRA in June of that year on Corporation Street in the city center. Although no one was killed, 212 people were injured in the biggest bomb detonation in Great Britain since World War II.

White described the brutal change in mood from the previous evening: "It's a horrible tragedy. I saw all the teenagers going to the concert last night, my office is just behind the building…it was a great atmosphere. All the young people, people of all ages really."

The blast occurred just after the concert came to close on Monday evening at one of the venue's exits. According to Manchester Arena management, it was "outside the building in a public space."  

Witnesses described chaos and shouting, as well as seeing bloodied concert-goers run from what appeared to be shrapnel composed of nuts and bolts. One woman who attended the concert with her 11-year-old daughter said to DW that there was pandemonium trying to flee the area.

Read: From Madrid to Manchester - a timeline of terror in Europe

'Shrieking, jumping over balconies, trampled on'

It was especially terrifying for the many children in attendance. Concert-goer Chloe Nayman said she took care of two lost girls, whom she had found "screaming," at her hotel throughout the night, until she could reunite them with their parents, one of whom had to be treated at the hospital for chest wounds from the explosives.

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"People were shrieking, jumping over balconies, people were lying on the floor," Nayman told DW, adding that some had to be taken away in ambulances after being trampled on.  

"You just want to protect your kids," said a shaken Nayman, who then praised the quick work of the emergency services and the way "the city came together" to take care of one another.

There were a chorus of voices praising the first responders on Tuesday, including Carl McLaughlin, a Spanish lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University who told DW about his positive experience when he went to give blood at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

"There were already dozens of people queuing to donate blood. I was very impressed with the way the people there handled it. They had opened the center two and a half hours earlier than normal, and their computer system crashed because it was overloaded. Still, they managed to keep track of everyone, and even make cups of tea and toast."

Second shock

Later in the day, Manchester suffered another shock when the Arndale shopping center was suddenly evacuated.

Many customers, frightened they would experience a repeat of the previous evening, ran from the building as police made the announcement to evacuate calmly. No statement has yet been made as to what prompted the authorities to clear the area, but the situation appeared to be under control. The Arndale center was badly damaged in the 1996 IRA attack and had to be rebuilt.

The authorities have said they are treating Monday night's attack as a suicide bombing and announced the arrest of one 23-year-old man in connection with the attack. "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists have claimed responsibility for the event, though they often do so for acts of violence that are not directly connected to their so-called "caliphate."

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