The Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi had been a “subject of interest” and opportunities to stop him were missed, says a report out today.
Abedi could have been stopped had MI5 interpreted two key bits of intelligence differently according to the findings of Ex-counter terror chief David Anderson.
He claims that MI5 would have launched an investigation had the “true significance” of the intelligence received in the months before the attack been known.
The report says: “It is unknowable whether such an investigation would have allowed Abedi’s plans to be pre-empted and thwarted. MI5 assesses that it would not.”
Anderson also says that a meeting was due to be taken on May 31 just nine days after the terror attack about whether to up surveillance of the bomber after the result of a “data washing” on 20,000 previous ‘suspects of interest’.
The review was set up by the government following this year’s terror attacked that took place in Manchester and in London.
The former Barrister studied internal reviews of MI5 and counter-terror police’s handling of intelligence prior to the four terror attacks.
Among it’s other findings was the fact that Westminster attacker Khalid Masood was known to police and MI5 for association with extremists. But he was a closed subject of interest at the time of the atrocity in March, and intelligence officers and police had no reason to anticipate his murderous actions.
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “This year 22 people in Manchester were murdered. Twenty two families were left devastated and there are hundreds of people suffering from physical or emotional trauma. None of us will ever forget that most awful of days.
“Our thoughts remain with all those affected and we remain committed to bringing anyone involved in this attack to justice.
“We welcome the report by Mr David Anderson QC, which provided independent assurance of the reviews undertaken by National Counter Terrorism Policing and MI5 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
“Counter Terrorism Policing in the UK is recognised internationally for its successes and strong partnership approach to defeating terrorists, because of that we will never stop learning or adapting to ensure that the response meets the changing threat.
“The size and scale of the threat from terrorism has been made so tragically clear this year. Greater Manchester Police will support Counter Terrorism Policing and the UK intelligence community in its response to this step change in threat and in adopting the recommendations in the Review.
“Further independent scrutiny will follow including inquests into the deaths of those who lost their lives. Greater Manchester Police will support those inquiries and with our partner agencies will continue to support those affected.”
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said:
“This is a thorough and honest review. I would like to thank David Anderson QC and all of those in the security and police services who have contributed to it.
“There is no escaping the fact that the report will be a difficult read for everyone in Manchester and most particularly for the bereaved families and those still recovering from the attack. We think of them today and recommit to doing everything we can to support them going forward.
“I also recognise that today will be difficult for all those in the police and security services who we ask to take the most difficult and finely-balanced judgements on our behalf. They work day in, day out to keep us safe, have foiled 20 attacks over the last four years and will no doubt feel real anguish when occasionally they are unable to stop an attack from happening.
“It is clear that this report is the result of a lot of soul-searching on their behalf. I accept its conclusion that there is no way of knowing whether the Manchester attack could have been stopped. But it is clear that things could – and perhaps should – have been done differently and wrong judgements made. There are lessons to be learned and I think the people of Greater Manchester will appreciate the honesty in which they are being acknowledged.
“It is important to note the conclusion that the authorities got a lot right in respect of the Manchester attack. The fact that they were closing in on the perpetrator should reassure the public of the professionalism of our police and security services and the systems that they use. It would be much more worrying if nothing had been known about him.
“But clearly systems can be improved further still and I know that people affected by the Manchester attack will want to know that changes are being made to prevent others going through what they are going through. In the aftermath of the Manchester attack, I called for consideration of two-way sharing on intelligence between national counter-terrorism and local police and I am pleased to see that recommendation in this report. This is a significant development which is right given that the nature of the terror threat has changed and issues as likely now to come from lone operators as sophisticated networks.
“I welcome the Home Secretary’s suggestion of a pilot in Greater Manchester and we will work constructively with the Government on that. This fits well with our aim of asking local communities to do more to tackle extremism and the Commission we have established to that end.
“But, while welcoming the recognition that neighbourhood policing has an important role to play in counter-terrorism operations, it inescapably follows that real-terms cuts to the police budget must stop and increases given to reflect the greater workload and growing threat that we face. As it makes its final decisions on the police budget for next year, the Government must give Greater Manchester police a budget that will allow it to enhance neighbourhood policing in all our communities.”