British police chief says sorry after fake suicide bomber shouts 'Allahu Akbar' in counter-terror exercise

The "suicide bomber" preparing to blow himself up during the simulation of a terrorist attack at the Trafford Centre in Manchester.
The "suicide bomber" preparing to blow himself up during the simulation of a terrorist attack at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. PHOTO: REUTERS
Armed response units arriving at the scene of the attack.
Armed response units arriving at the scene of the attack. PHOTO: AFP
Volunteers hiding in a restaurant during the attack.
Volunteers hiding in a restaurant during the attack. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Greater Manchester Police have issued a public apology for racial stereotyping, after a fake suicide bomber participating in a major counter terrorism exercise shouted "Allahu Akbar" before "blowing" himself up.

Staged at the Trafford Centre in Manchester on Tuesday (May 10), some 800 volunteers took part in the overnight, 24-hour operation in an effort to increase its realism.

But it drew flak on social media for portraying the attacker, who was dressed in black, as a Muslim extremist.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan subsequently responded to the complaints on Twitter and offered his apologies for the offence caused, admitting that it was unacceptable.

"Phrase is not used exclusively by terrorists, can be used during a call to prayer/greeting - can be realistic yet insensitive at same time," ACC Shewan wrote in one tweet.

"Allahu Akbar" is Arabic for "God is greater", and has often been heard uttered by Muslim extremists during terror attacks.

In its statement of apology to the public, the Greater Manchester Police explained that the scenario for the exercise had been based on a suicide attack by an extremist ISIS-style organisation.

"The scenario writers have centered the circumstances around previous similar attacks of this nature, mirroring details of past events to make the situation as real life as possible for all those involved," it added.

The Telegraph reported that the exercise, which had been in the works since December last year, had been hailed as one of the largest counter-terrorism training exercises ever to take place in the country.

Starting at midnight at the entrance to a food court, a lone gunman started shouting at the crowd before firing shots. Moments later, he triggered an explosion to the sounds of screams. "Victims" were also seen lying on the ground smeared in fake blood.


Volunteers covered in fake blood playing the part of casualties during the exercise. PHOTO: AFP

The exercise involved Manchester's police force working with several emergency services.

Neither the volunteers nor emergency services had been given exact details of the scenario, other than it would be a terror attack of some sort.