Britain’s head of security said on Thursday he was deeply sorry his spies missed a “significant” opportunity to prevent a deadly 2017 suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester.
Twenty-two people – the youngest aged eight – died and more than 200 were injured when a man detonated a homemade bomb at the Manchester Arena in northern England, as parents arrived to collect children after the American singer’s show .
John Saunders, the chairman of a public inquiry into the tragedy, said he could not say with certainty that the bombing could have been stopped, but “there was a realistic possibility that useful information could have been obtained, which could have led to action to prevent the attack.” attack”.
He said the domestic intelligence agency MI5, whose officers he questioned at private hearings, had not acted quickly enough. Saunders was speaking after the publication of his third and final report on the bombing, the deadliest in Britain since the 2005 London suicide bombings.
Ken McCallum, director-general of MI5, said he was “deeply sorry” that his agency had not prevented the attack.
“Gathering classified intelligence is difficult – but if we had managed to seize the small opportunity we had, those affected might not have experienced such a terrible loss and trauma,” he said in a statement.
John Saunders told a media conference that there had been a “significant missed opportunity to take action that could have prevented the attack”. He said he could not provide details due to national security concerns, admitting that this may leave the victims’ families wanting to know more.
‘SO MANY MISTAKES IN THEIR DUTY’
Richard Scorer, an attorney for 11 bereaved families, said Saunders’ report revealed “unacceptable” failures.
“At the very least, a real possibility of preventing this attack has been lost. This is a devastating conclusion for us,” he said.
The perpetrator, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, had been known to the security service since 2014, had visited an influential jailed terrorist in prison and should have been referred to a deradicalisation program, John Saunders said.
Abedi’s younger brother Hashem was sentenced to 55 years in prison in 2020 for encouraging and aiding him, while a third, older brother, Ismail, was sentenced in July for not taking part in the investigation to testify after leaving Britain had fled.
The brothers were born to Libyan parents who emigrated to Britain during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi.
Interior Secretary Suella Braverman said she would work with the agency and police to “do everything possible to prevent a repeat of this horrific attack”.
John Saunders’ previous two reports had also revealed other shortcomings and mistakes made both in security at the site and in the response of the emergency services, saying one victim probably would have survived had it not been so flawed been.
Relatives of some of the victims said they could never forgive those who abandoned their loved ones.
“From top to bottom – MI5 to the attacker’s associates – we will always believe you all played a part in the murder of our children,” said Caroline Curry, the mother of a teenage boy who died with his 17-year-old . female friend.
“So many people were paid that night to protect our children, yet so many failed in their duties.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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