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A group of UK police chiefs blasted intelligence officials in the US on Wednesday for leaking photographs of evidence relating to the suicide bombing in Manchester earlier this week.
In decrying the leaks, the National Police Chiefs’ Council joined other UK government officials who have expressed frustration with their American security allies since the attack, which killed 22 people and injured more than 50 others Monday.
On Wednesday, The New York Times published pictures of remnants of the attacker’s homemade bomb, including a shredded backpack, a 12-volt battery, and nuts and screws used as shrapnel.
In a statement, a spokesperson representing the British police group’s counterterrorism committee said the leaks “undermine our investigations and the confidence of victims.”
“We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world. These relationships enable us to collaborate and share privileged and sensitive information that allows us to defeat terrorism and protect the public at home and abroad,” the spokesperson said.
“When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”
Another government official called the leak “completely unacceptable.”
“We are furious. This is completely unacceptable,” the unnamed government official told The Guardian. “These images leaked from inside the US system will be distressing for victims, their families and the wider public. The issue is being raised at every relevant level by the British authorities with their US counterparts.”
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The photo leak undercut comments from UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who hours earlier said she had spoken with US officials about the “flow of information” and made clear “it should not happen again.”
On Monday, as news outlets on both sides of the Atlantic were scrambling for details of the explosion at Manchester Arena, American news outlets published key details – such as the name of suspected attacker Salman Abedi – before British police released the information to local outlets.
“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect the operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” Rudd said on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.
Despite Rudd’s urging, information about Abedi’s family and means of his identification continued to emerge Wednesday.