MI5 missed chance to stop bombing at Ariana Grande's 2017 Manchester concert: UK inquiry

A handout photo released by the Manchester Arena Inquiry shows suicide bomber Salman Abedi walking inside the Manchester Arena. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Britain’s security services missed a “significant” opportunity to take action which might have prevented a 2017 deadly suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester, an inquiry into the attack concluded on Thursday.

Twenty-two people the youngest aged just eight died in the blast and more than 200 were injured when a man detonated a homemade bomb at Manchester Arena as parents arrived to collect their children following the US singer’s show.

Inquiry chairman John Saunders said the domestic MI5 spy agency had missed chances that might have stopped the attack and he criticised its intelligence sharing with counter-terrorism police.

“There was a significant missed opportunity to take action that might have prevented the attack,” Mr Saunders said in his third and final report into the bombing, the deadliest in Britain since the 2005 London transport suicide attacks.

“It is not possible to reach any conclusion on the balance of probabilities or to any other evidential standard as to whether the attack would have been prevented.

“However, there was a realistic possibility that actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing the attack.”

A lawyer for 11 families who lost loved ones said the failures highlighted in the report were unacceptable.

“As a result of these failures, at the very least, a real possibility of preventing this attack was lost. This is a devastating conclusion for us,” lawyer Richard Scorer said.

Mr Saunders’ previous reports have concluded there were serious shortcomings and mistakes made in the security at the venue. He also found that one of those killed would probably have survived if the response by the emergency services had not been so flawed.

The bombing was carried out by Salman Abedi, 22, while his younger brother Hashem was jailed for 55 years in 2020 for encouraging and helping him.

A third, elder brother, Ismail, was in July convicted in his absence of failing to attend the inquiry to give evidence, having fled Britain. The Abedi brothers were born to Libyan parents who emigrated to Britain during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

Mr Saunders’ findings echo those of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee which concluded in a 2018 report that Britain’s MI5 security service had missed potential opportunities to prevent the bombing, and failed to learn from previous attacks. REUTERS

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