Manchester Arena investigation: MI5 ‘deeply sorry’ for not stopping attack

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Twenty-two people died in the bombing, which happened at the end of Ariana Grande’s concert

The head of MI5 said he was “deeply sorry” that the security service did not prevent the Manchester Arena attack.

A public inquiry has found MI5 missed an important opportunity to take action to stop the 2017 bombing in which 22 people died.

Chairman Sir John Saunders said the intelligence could have led to suicide bomber Salman Abedi being followed to a car where he stored his explosives.

MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said he regretted that such intelligence had not been obtained.

“Collecting secret intelligence is difficult,” he said, “but if we had managed to take the slim chance we had, those affected might not have suffered such appalling loss and trauma. ”

Abedi detonated his homemade device in the lobby of Manchester Arena as crowds left an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

In addition to the 22 people killed, hundreds were injured.

The investigation revealed that two pieces of information about Abedi had been assessed at the time by the security service as not being related to terrorism.

An officer admitted to considering a possible pressing national security issue for one of them, but did not immediately discuss it with his colleagues and did not write a report the same day.

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How a South Manchester schoolboy became a suicide bomber

In his 207-page report, Sir John said: “The delay in delivering the report has missed an opportunity to take a potentially important investigative step.

“Based on everything the security service knew or should have known, I am satisfied that such an investigation would have been a proportionate and justified step to take.

“It should have happened.”

But he added that Abedi “showed some degree of security awareness and that this could have affected the effectiveness of the investigative action that I identified”.

Sir John said the intelligence could have led Abedi to be followed to the parked Nissan Micra where he stored his explosives and then moved them to a rented apartment in the city center to assemble his bomb.

He said that if MI5 had acted on the intelligence received, Abedi could also have been arrested at Manchester airport on his return from Libya four days before the attack.

The public inquiry also revealed that Abedi was likely assisted by someone in Libya but it was not possible, based on the available evidence, to say who that might have been.

This is the first time that an official conclusion has been drawn on the possible involvement of other people from abroad.

In making this conclusion, Sir John contradicts an MI5 assessment that no one other than Salman Abedi and his brother Hashem were knowingly involved in the plot.


Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds more injured in the blast

The report also found that while the Didsbury Mosque in south Manchester, where the Abedi family worshipped, was not an active factor in the brothers’ radicalisation, politicization did occur there.

Sir John said ‘there was a form of willful blindness’ to certain activities and ‘weak leadership’.

The report concluded that the Abedi family held “significant responsibility” in the radicalization of Salman and Hashem Abedi.

The family members responsible are their father Ramadan Abedi, their mother Samia Tabbal and their older brother Ismail Abedi, who each hold extremist views, the investigation found.

But Sir John said other than Hashem Abedi, there was not enough evidence to attribute any specific knowledge of the attack to them.

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Watch: Inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders talks about ‘significant missed opportunity’ to stop attack

The first volume was made available to the public while the second was only distributed to a limited readership of people with security clearances.

It does not include the families of those who died, their legal teams or the media, because its content would be harmful to national security if made public, the inquest said.

The investigative process began over three years ago and there have been 194 days of oral testimony from 267 witnesses.

It seems a contradiction of the term “public inquiry” to keep certain findings private, but the president says he had to balance the principle of open justice with the issue of national security.

He added that all private evidence has been reviewed to ensure that their restriction cannot be seen as a “mask to conceal errors”.

Since the previous two investigative reports were highly critical of private companies and public authorities involved in the arena and emergency response, this document was also expected to be harsh on MI5.

Bereaved families and survivors will be pleased that in some areas the report does not pull its punches.

They will find it upsetting to learn that the security service has missed an important opportunity. But there will also be some frustration that they will never learn all the details of what exactly this opportunity entailed.

Andrew Roussos, whose eight-year-old daughter Saffie-Rose was killed in the blast, said hearing how the tragedy could have been avoided was “devastating for all of us”.

“It was a cataclysmic failure, and it’s clear from all the evidence we’ve heard about Abedi that there were plenty of opportunities for the security services to ensure the bombing never happened. place.

“In my view, the fact that MI5 failed to arrest him despite all the red flags available demonstrates that they are not fit to keep us safe and therefore not fit for our purpose.”

Caroline Curry, whose 19-year-old son Liam was killed in the attack, said: ‘Forgiveness will never be an option for such evil intentions and those who played a part in the murder of our children n will never, ever get forgiveness.

“From top to bottom, from MI5 to the attacker’s associates, we will always believe you all played a part in the murder of our children.”

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Manchester Arena attack: ‘Forgiveness will never be an option’

Richard Scorer, senior counsel at Slater and Gordon, who represented 11 of the bereaved families at the inquest, said the report was “deeply painful to read, but also revealing” while providing “less information than we would have liked”.

Nicola Brook, of Broudie Jackson Canter, who represents five bereaved families, said it was “disappointing that the families never know the full truth about what happened”.

“All the families have signed an undertaking not to reveal any confidential information that they have not breached,” she added.

“These, more than any others, have the right to know what the security services knew and had the most interest in keeping confidential.”


Salman Abedi in the lobby of Manchester Arena, seconds before he blew himself up

Following the publication of the report, MI5 said that since the attack it had made more than 100 improvements.

“But we are determined to do more. As the president now considers his recommendations, we will engage fully,” McCallum said.

“Where there are opportunities to further strengthen the UK’s defences, MI5 will act.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she was “committed to working with MI5, the police and partners to study the recommendations”.

“Together we will do everything we can to prevent a repeat of this horrific attack,” she added.

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