MI5 missed “significant opportunity” to prevent Manchester Arena bombing, inquiry finds

There was a “significant missed opportunity” to take action which might have prevented the Manchester arena bombing, the final report in its inquiry has found.

MI5 failed to act swiftly enough and “actionable intelligence could have been obtained” to potentially prevent the attack, according to the report.

However, it concludes that it is “impossible” to say definitively whether different behaviour by the authorities could have thwarted the bombing.

The paper released today is the third from the public inquiry and arrives almost six years after the terrorist incident which killed 22 people and injured hundreds more in May 2017.

It reads: “There was a significant missed opportunity to take action that might have prevented the attack. 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.

That said, the inquiry, chaired by Sir John Saunders, also acknowledges the challenges faced by the investigative authorities.

It says: “No one should underestimate the very difficult job that the Security Service and Counter Terrorism Policing do. That job has become more difficult with the emergence of lone actor terrorists whose activities are more difficult to track.”

The Security Service and police have disrupted 37 late-stage attack plots since the start of 2017, according to the most recent available statement.

Elsewhere, the report also explores the radicalisation of suicide bomber Salman Abedi, who was responsible for the atrocity, stating that his family “holds significant responsibility” and that his parents held “extremist views”.

Moving forward: recommendations made by the report

In response to its findings, the inquiry makes a range of recommendations, including redefining how prisoners are categorised.

Prisoner categories are currently based off the risk of an inmate escaping, but the report advises creating a separate scheme which assesses “the risk that a prisoner poses in terms of radicalising visitors”.

It also suggests supervising conversations and forbidding inmates who could radicalise people from having vulnerable visitors.

Abedi was in touch with Abdalraouf Abdallah, a convicted terrorist, in the years leading up to the attack while Abdallah was in prison.

Additionally, the report believes the Department of Education should consider whether schools should exchange information on “significant behavioural problems” when a pupil moves school in the Common Transfer File (CTF).

The CTF includes information such as a pupil’s personal details and their attendance record, but does not currently allow schools to pass on behaviour-related comments.

The report adds: “The focus should be on any behaviour that may be indicative of violent extremism, such as physical aggression or misogynistic conduct. This kind of behaviour is consistent with the development of a violent extremist mindset, but is not necessarily an indication of it by any means.

“A clean start should be possible when a student moves from school to college or higher education, such that it would not be appropriate for a general file on significant behavioural problems to follow them at that point.

“However, there may still be value in passing on a record of any behaviour that is assessed to indicate vulnerability to radicalisation.”

The report asserts that none of the schools attended by Abedi should be held at fault as they did not have a sufficiently comprehensive view of his behaviour or circumstances for long enough.

You can access the full report here.

Featured image: G-13114 via Creative Commons. Licence: Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0

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