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Saturday, 4 May 2019

Manchester city centre re-opens after man, 26, is found with arsenal of weapons and arrested over ‘bomb hoax’ after THREE suspicious packages are found putting area in lockdown for nine hours

Manchester city centre has re-opened after a man was found with an arsenal of weapons and arrested over a 'bomb hoax' following the discovery of three suspicious packages - just weeks away from the second anniversary of the tragic Arena bombing.
The 26-year-old man was found with items including a 'bladed article', and remains in police custody as cordons are lifted at the site of three suspicious packages. 
One was found at Oldham Library in the north-west of the city, while two others were found in Piccadilly Gardens right in the heart of the city and a heavily populated area. 
There were frightening scenes yesterday afternoon when a cordon in the city centre was lifted - allowing the public to wander into danger zone - before it was quickly reinstated and bomb disposal raced to the area.  
Police later confirmed 'a loud noise' was created in the area, which they said was to 'ensure the package is safe'. But they have not confirmed whether a controlled explosion took place, and kept a cordon in place for some time.
The area has now been opened to the public once again, after both a library and the city centre square were evacuated following reports of three suspicious packages. But police have been unwilling to confirm what was inside them, instead saying they were 'non-viable' and telling MailOnline they won't know for some time.  
It is therefore unclear whether the devices were a fake bomb, a badly made bomb or just an innocent rucksack. Police have said the incidents are believed to be connected.
Police maintained a cordon in Manchester city centre last night following a bomb scare at Piccadilly Gardens. A tent was set up so investigation work could be carried out on one of two suspicious packages in the area
Police maintained a cordon in Manchester city centre last night following a bomb scare at Piccadilly Gardens. A tent was set up so investigation work could be carried out on one of two suspicious packages in the area
Police and the Army's Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal team were on hand to investigate the suspect packages. One is seen here next to a tent set up around one of the packages
Police and the Army's Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal team were on hand to investigate the suspect packages. One is seen here next to a tent set up around one of the packages 
The Army's Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal team were dispatched to the city centre yesterday afternoon,
The Army's Royal Logistics Corps Bomb Disposal team were dispatched to the city centre yesterday afternoon, 
Bomb squad present at Piccadilly Gardens over suspicious package
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Bomb squads swooped in on Piccadilly Gardens and rolled out a disposal robot as officers were forced to quickly re-evacuate the normally busy area
Bomb squads swooped in on Piccadilly Gardens and rolled out a disposal robot as officers were forced to quickly re-evacuate the normally busy area
Greater Manchester Police said the 26-year-old man was held by officers after the discovery of the backpack earlier today
Greater Manchester Police said the 26-year-old man was held by officers after the discovery of the backpack earlier today
The north-west city was hit by a double bomb scare today after a library and city centre square were evacuated following reports of two suspicious packages
The north-west city was hit by a double bomb scare today after a library and city centre square were evacuated following reports of two suspicious packages
The Royal Logistical Corps also arrived to probe a suspicious package at Oldham library today
The Royal Logistical Corps also arrived to probe a suspicious package at Oldham library today
It has not yet been determined whether the two sets of evacuations in Greater Manchester were linked
It has not yet been determined whether the two sets of evacuations in Greater Manchester were linked 
Confirming the arrest of a 26-year-old man, a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said yesterday evening: 'A man aged 26 remains in custody for questioning after being arrested on suspicion of a bomb hoax offence, possession of a prohibited weapon, possession of a bladed article and possession of an offensive weapon.'  
Police had originally lifted part of the cordon at Piccadilly Gardens surrounding a suspicious backpack which had been left in the area earlier, but 'further enquiries' triggered a backpedaling of this decision. The cordon at Oldham Library, around eight miles from the city centre, has remained in place throughout.  
Bomb disposal officers from the Royal Logistical Corps helped probe the device in the city centre, while they also investigated the package in the library's men's toilets. Officers established a large cordon around Piccadilly Gardens as local office buildings and shops were evacuated and the central tram service was suspended. 
Addressing the day's events, Police Superintendent Dave Pester of GMP's City of Manchester Division, said: 'I know today's events have caused a lot of disruption to people, businesses and transport but I cannot thank everyone enough for their patience as we've responded to this.
'The investigation will look at every available piece of information so we can understand the motivation behind it and the circumstances that surround it.
'People's safety is always our priority in everything that we do, which is why we have taken this extremely seriously and responded the way that we have.
'I'd like to once again thank you for your patience as we progress our enquiries and assure you that any updates we have on the investigation will be shared with you.'
A bomb disposal robot was sent into Oldham library this afternoon after reports of an unknown package in the toilets
A bomb disposal robot was sent into Oldham library this afternoon after reports of an unknown package in the toilets
Emergency services and forensics teams descended on Piccadilly Gardens which has been cordoned off
Fire crews were also in attendance, but Greater Manchester Police later revealed that the Piccadilly Gardens package was 'not believed to be a viable device'
Fire crews were also in attendance, but Greater Manchester Police later revealed that the Piccadilly Gardens package was 'not believed to be a viable device'
Greater Manchester Police earlier said that both sets of packages were thought to be 'non-viable'. They said: 'The cordon in Piccadilly Gardens remains in place while officers conduct further enquiries.' 
A spokesman added: 'Officers responding to reports of a suspicious package in the area deemed it to be a non-viable device.
'Further enquiries are being carried out and bomb disposal officers are on their way to the scene to assist with these enquiries.
'The cordon will remain in place as a precautionary measure and people in the area are encouraged to follow directions from officers.
'As part of the investigation, officers were also responding to reports of a suspicious package at Oldham Library. This was also deemed to be non-viable. Thank you for your patience as we respond to this.'
Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester goes into in lockdown today after the package was found
Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester goes into in lockdown today after the package was found
Photographs from the scene showed officers stood guard around the area at lunchtime today
Photographs from the scene showed officers stood guard around the area at lunchtime today

People stand by the police cordon put in place in Manchester city centre this afternoon
People stand by the police cordon put in place in Manchester city centre this afternoon
Police stand at the scene after a 26-year-old man was detained in connection with the incident
Police stand at the scene after a 26-year-old man was detained in connection with the incident
A bomb disposal robot was sent into Oldham library this afternoon, but the unit has now reportedly been stood down. All Metrolink stops were suspended between Piccadilly and Victoria and reporters near the gardens described a 'very heavy police presence'. 
Witnesses said it was 'the quietest Piccadilly Gardens I've ever seen' while others tweeted that they were 'currently not allowed to leave the building at work'. 
Laurence Hebberd said on Twitter: 'I've never seen anything like it - the whole of Piccadilly Gardens has been closed and cordoned off due to a suspicious package.' 
And Chloe Glover said: 'My office is literally 30 seconds walk from Piccadilly Gardens and I am feeling spooooooked [sic]. Hope whatever's going on gets sorted out soon.'
A spokesman for Oldham Council said: 'A suspicious package has been found in the gentleman's toilets. The entire building has been evacuated as a precaution.'  
Laurence Hebberd said on Twitter: 'I've never seen anything like it - the whole of Piccadilly Gardens has been closed and cordoned off due to a suspicious package (pictured: police moving people away from the scene)
Laurence Hebberd said on Twitter: 'I've never seen anything like it - the whole of Piccadilly Gardens has been closed and cordoned off due to a suspicious package (pictured: police moving people away from the scene)
All Metrolink stops were suspended between Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria today
All Metrolink stops were suspended between Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria today
The gardens in Manchester would normally be a bustling scene on a Friday lunchtime
The gardens in Manchester would normally be a bustling scene on a Friday lunchtime
Witnesses said it was 'the quietest Piccadilly Gardens I've ever seen' during the incident today
Witnesses said it was 'the quietest Piccadilly Gardens I've ever seen' during the incident today
Earlier, a force spokesman said: 'A cordon remains in place in Piccadilly Gardens after reports of a suspicious package were made. 
'A man aged 26 has now been formally arrested and is in custody. Assessors, along with the fire service, will be attending to establish if the item is viable. 
'Transport links including the Metrolink have been affected as a result of the cordon. As part of enquiries, Oldham Library has also been evacuated after reports of a suspicious device found there.
'Officers are keeping an open mind and are exploring the possibility the incidents are linked. Thank you for your patience as we respond to this.'
Detectives did not say what the man had been arrested for, but the force also tweeted: 'Please follow directions from officers at Piccadilly Gardens. 
'If you are working in the city and have been asked to stay indoors, please do so while officers carry out their enquiries.'

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