LONDON (AP) — Britain’s domestic intelligence agency failed to act quickly enough on key information and missed a key opportunity to prevent the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at a 2017 Ariana Grande concert in north-west England, it emerged Thursday research.
Retired judge John Saunders, who led the inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack, said an MI5 officer admitted he considered information about suicide bomber Salman Abedi a potential national security concern but was not acting quickly enough. colleagues discussed.
“I have found an important missed opportunity to take action that could have prevented the attack,” he said.
MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said he was “deeply sorry that MI5 did not prevent the attack”.
“Collecting classified intelligence is difficult, but if we had managed to seize the small opportunity we had, those affected might not have experienced such terrible loss and trauma,” McCallum said in a statement.
Abedi, 22, detonated a knapsack bomb in the arena’s foyer at the end of the May 22, 2017 concert, as thousands of young fans, including children, left the pop star’s show. Abedi died in the explosion.
His brother, Hashem Abedi, was convicted in 2020 of helping plan and carry out the attack. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Saunders said that had MI5 acted on the information it received could have resulted in Abedi being stopped on his return from Libya just four days before the Manchester Airport attack.
Richard Scorer, a lawyer representing 11 of the bereaved families, said the report was a “devastating conclusion for us”.
“It is now very clear that a mistake has been made in properly assessing the most important information about Salman Abedi; a failure to put it into context, and — most catastrophic of all — a delay in acting on it,” Scorer said. “The errors exposed in this report are unacceptable.”
Several MI5 witnesses testified behind closed doors to the investigation and the information was not made public.
Abedi was a “subject of interest” to MI5 officials in 2014, but his case was closed soon after because he was considered low-risk.
Saunders also said authorities had not referred Abedi to the government’s counter-terrorism program known as Prevent.
“I have concluded that there was at least a period during Salman Abedi’s journey into violent extremism where he should have been referred,” he said.
Thursday’s report was the third and final report on the attack. Saunders previously criticized arena security personnel and local police for failing to identify Abedi as a threat. He has also criticized delays and shortcomings in emergency response on the night of the bombing.