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Robert Booth, Vikram Dodd, Sandra Laville and Ewen MacAskill — The May 23, 2017

Soldiers patrol at Orly airport, south of Paris, Saturday, March, 18, 2017. Soldiers at Paris’ busy Orly Aiport shot and killed a man who wrestled one of their colleagues to the ground and tried to steal her rifle Saturday, officials said. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu). Click to enlarge

Soldiers are being sent on to Britain’s streets to help the police and a second terror attack may be imminent following the Manchester concert bombing, Theresa May has said.

The prime minister raised the threat level from severe to critical for the first time since July 2007, meaning “not only that an attack remains highly likely but a further attack may be imminent”.

May said she did not want to “unduly alarm” people but military personnel would be present at public events and key sites under police command.

She said it could not be ruled out that the attacker, named as Salman Ramadan Abedi, was working as part of a terrorist group.

Speaking from Downing Street after an emergency Cobra meeting, May said the investigations of the security services and police have “revealed it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this incident”.

The prime minister said: “The police have asked for authorisation from the secretary of state for defence to deploy a number of military personnel in support of their armed officers.”

This means some armed police officers guarding events will be replaced by soldiers in an operation codenamed Temperer. It is the first time that the operation, which was first revealed in 2015, has been put into effect. The plan is believed to allow up to 5,000 troops to be deployed in support of the police, replacing armed officers at many sites to free them up for patrols in key areas.

Police and security services are urgently seeking to establish if the Manchester suicide bomber, who killed at least 22 people including several children, was acting on his own or was linked to a wider organisation.

The killer was named by Greater Manchester police as Salman Abedi, after he was first named by US security sources. Abedi was known to the police and security services, although was considered a peripheral figure.

Greater Manchester police chief constable, Ian Hopkins, said: “The priority remains to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.”

The investigation is understood to be focusing on whether Abedi was directly supported by other conspirators or built the bomb himself to instructions obtained over the internet. The device he used is described as homemade and crude although it was stable enough to be transported, and exploded with devastating effect. It is believed to have been constructed in Britain and was packed into a bag

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