LONDON – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday the close relationship between U.S. and British intelligence agencies would survive the strain of recent leaks as investigators seek to unravel a suspected network linked to the terrorism bombing in Manchester.
Tillerson’s remarks came during a trip to Britain to offer condolences after Monday’s suicide blast that killed 22 people – even as British leaders expressed displeasure at leaks related to the bombing investigation that they blamed on U.S. authorities.
The rare dispute with Washington’s closest intelligence partner flared Thursday when police authorities in Manchester briefly interrupted sharing information with their American counterparts.
The cooperation later resumed after President Trump assured Prime Minister Theresa May that he would crack down on leaks.
“We take full responsibility for that and we regret that that happened,” Tillerson said after a lunch meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the British diplomat’s London residence. He said that the “special relationship” with Britain would endure.
Johnson played down any lasting rift between British and American intelligence authorities, praising the “vital importance” of work between U.S. and British authorities, including intelligence sharing.
After their lunch, the two men wrote condolences for the victims of the Manchester attack.
“All of America’s hearts are broken for the tragedy of Manchester,” Tillerson wrote on his cream-colored sheet of paper.
On Thursday, Britain observed a one-minute silence at the stroke of 11 a.m. in memory of those who died in the attack.
Meanwhile, a German security official told The Washington Post that the bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, had been in D 5/8sseldorf just four days before the bombing. The development signaled an expansion of an investigation that already has stretched to North Africa and continental Europe.
Authorities were investigating whether Abedi had possible contacts with extremists in Germany, including during a 2015 visit to Frankfurt, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Abedi was en route back to Britain from Istanbul when he stopped off in D 5/8sseldorf.
The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel first reported the bomber’s presence in Germany. The paper, which cited unidentified security sources, said Abedi, flew from D 5/8sseldorf to Manchester last Thursday.
In a televised address on Thursday, May said the country’s threat level would remain “critical,” the highest state of alert. She also said she would “make clear” to President Trump when they meet later in Brussels that “intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”
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