British counterintelligence services missed a “significant” opportunity to prevent a bomb attack in 2017 after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The findings of the investigation were presented on Thursday.
On May 22, 2017, Manchester-born Salman Abedi, a British citizen of Libyan descent, detonated a homemade explosive device as people left an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena. Apart from the perpetrator, 22 people died, including two Poles, and over 200 people were injured. Less than three weeks earlier the older brother of the bomber was sentenced to at least 55 years for complicity in the murder of 22 people and attempted murder.
On Thursday, the head of the investigation team, John Saunders, presented the investigation report. He reported that British counterintelligence MI5 agents had missed a chance to stop the attack. “A significant opportunity was wasted to take action that could have prevented the attack,” he said in his third and final report on the Manchester bombing, the most tragic attack in Britain since the July 2005 London public transport attacks.
Saunders also said that Abedi probably received support from someone from Libya. This statement contradicts MI5’s assessment that no one other than Abedi and his brother were involved in planning the attack. He said that “it is likely that there were other people who were knowingly involved in the bombing, even if they may not have known all the details.” However, he noted that based on the evidence gathered, it was not possible to determine who it could have been.
Saunders went on to point out that “violent Islamic extremists are a small group.” He explained that “many factors” contributed to Abedi’s radicalization, including his background, the extremist views of Ramadan and Samia’s parents, and his involvement in the fighting in Libya.
“The findings of the MI5 investigation are damning,” the BBC commented. As explained, among other things, due to the fact that the agents “several months before the attack received two pieces of intelligence that were very relevant to the course of events.” However, the information was not specified. It was only mentioned that the former should be made available to the counter-terrorism unit, and on the latter, an MI5 official was to report on the day the information was assessed, but did not.
Richard Scorer, a lawyer representing the 11 families who lost loved ones in the attack, commented that the report’s findings were unacceptable. – As a result of these failures, a real opportunity to prevent this attack was lost. This is a devastating conclusion for us,” he admitted.
Previous reports by the Saunders team pointed to serious shortcomings and security flaws in the facility. They also revealed that one of the victims likely would have survived the attack had the emergency services’ response not been flawed.
The day that changed Manchester
Near the site of the attack that tragic night was BBC reporter Gem O’Reilly. Describing today’s news, she mentioned that May 22, 2017 was “the day Manchester changed”. “A city that revolved around music and buzz was completely affected by this devastating attack,” she admitted.
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