MI5 Had Chance to Stop Manchester Bombing

But Director General Ken McCallum describes the opportunity as 'slim'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2023 7:54 AM CST
MI5 Had 'Significant' Chance to Stop Manchester Bombing
Flower tributes at St. Ann's square, Manchester, England, on May 23, 2017, after a suicide bombing attack at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.   (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, File)

An inquiry into the 2017 suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in the UK has found British intelligence missed a "significant" opportunity to stop it. Influenced by the Islamic State, Salman Abedi detonated the bomb in the foyer of Manchester Arena as attendees left, killing 22 people and injuring more than 100, many of them adolescents and children. In the third and final inquiry report released Thursday, retired judge John Saunders said the MI5 intelligence agency could have stopped the 22-year-old, born in Manchester to Libyan parents, when he returned from Libya four days before the bombing, which might have deterred him or provided more information, per NPR and the BBC. That wasn’t the only missed opportunity, Saunders wrote.

The bomber drew MI5 attention in 2014. But he was considered low-risk and his case was closed without referral to the government's counterterrorism program, according to the report. Saunders, who names several terrorists who inspired Abedi, found he'd visited an influential jailed extremist, per Reuters. He also likely received assistance from someone in Libya, which contradicts an earlier MI5 assessment, per the BBC. The report claims Abedi's mother, father, and elder brother hold "significant responsibility" for the radicalization of Abedi and his younger brother, Hashem, who was jailed for 55 years in 2020 for helping plan the crime. Each of the relatives held extremist views, though it's not clear that they had prior knowledge of the attack, according to the report.

Families called it a "devastating conclusion," per Reuters. Caroline Curry, whose teenage son was killed, said MI5 and family associates "played a part in the murder of our children," per the BBC. "I am profoundly sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack," said Director General Ken McCallum. "Gathering covert intelligence is difficult—but had we managed to seize the slim chance we had, those impacted might not have experienced such appalling loss and trauma." Home Secretary Suella Braverman vowed to do "everything possible" to prevent a reoccurrence. Saunders' recommendations include preventing extremist prisoners from radicalizing visitors and keeping a record of photos of students handling weapons as a possible indicator of violent extremism. (More Manchester stories.)

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