MI5 missed opportunity that could have avoided Manchester Arena terror attack, inquiry finds

The victims of the terror attack by suicide bomber Salman Abedi (PA Media)
The victims of the terror attack by suicide bomber Salman Abedi (PA Media)

A “significant” missed opportunity by MI5 to act over a key piece of intelligence might have prevented the Manchester Arena terror attack, the inquiry into the bombing has found.

Salmed Abedi detonated an explosive outside an Ariana Grande concert on May 2017, killing 23 people, including himself.

On Thursday the third section of a major inquiry set up into the terror attack, looking at if the attack could have been avoided, was released.

Speaking to bereaved families gathered at Manchester Hall, inquiry chairman Sir John Saunders said: “I have concluded that there were a number of contributory factors to Salman Abedi’s radicalisation.

“His family background and his parents’ extremist views along with their participation in the struggle in Libya played a significant part.

“That struggle involved people who were radical violent extremists. During the time Salman Abedi and (his brother) Hashem Abedi spent in Libya, during which they were probably involved in fighting, they are likely to have come into contact with a number of violent extremists.

Salman Abedi in Libya during the country’s 2011 uprising (PA Media)
Salman Abedi in Libya during the country’s 2011 uprising (PA Media)

“It is likely that those extremists included members of the Islamic State who would be in a position to provide the brothers with expertise in the making of bombs and in carrying out counter surveillance measures.”

The room was filled with more than 50 people, including members of victims’ families, who listened as Sir John summarised his findings.

Sir John said: “I have not been able to obtain a complete picture of the part Salman Abedi and Hashem Abedi’s family played in their radicalisation nor of what happened while they were in Libya.

“That is because other members of the family, namely their parents and brother, were not willing to give evidence to the inquiry.

“Salman and Hashem’s parents were invited to provide statements but declined to do so. As they are currently out of the jurisdiction there were no further steps that I could take.

“Ismail Abedi (elder brother), who was in the country at the time I requested a statement, managed to leave the UK so that he didn’t have to provide information which he was in a position to give.

“Whether, if I had succeeded in getting Ismail Abedi into the witness box, he would have assisted the inquiry is very doubtful.”

Richard Scorer, principal lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who represented 11 of the families at the inquiry, said: “Today’s report has been deeply painful to read, but also eye-opening.

“On the issue of the preventability of this attack, inevitably the report provides less information than we would have wanted.

“But it is now very clear that there was a failure to properly assess key intelligence about Salman Abedi; a failure to put it into proper context, and – most catastrophic of all – a delay in acting on it.

“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.

“The failures exposed in this report are unacceptable.

“The public are entitled to expect that information of national security importance will be acted on speedily and, crucially, that the system will ensure that this happens. It must do so in the future.”

More to follow.