Security services could have prevented the Manchester Arena terror attack if they had acted on two pieces of intelligence and monitored the bomber, according to a damning report found today.
The error was one of six mistakes by MI5 and the anti-terrorist police identified by retired High Court judge Sir John Saunders in the third and final report of his long-running inquiry.
The bomb attack after a concert by US pop singer Ariana Grande on May 22, 2017 killed 22 people and injured hundreds.
Sir John said that had the intelligence services been investigated, the return of killer Salman Abedi from Libya four days before the attack “would have been taken extremely seriously by the security services”.
The two crucial pieces of intelligence were revealed during 10 days of secret hearings – and still haven’t been made public.
Sir John said that had the intelligence services been investigated, the return of killer Salman Abedi from Libya four days before the attack “would have been taken extremely seriously by security”.
But Sir John said had officials acted on the information and put Abedi under surveillance, it “could have resulted in him being followed” as he fled Libya to the UK on May 18, 2017 – four days before the attack returned.
The head of the investigation said today: “I have not been able to get a full picture of the role played by the family of Salman Abedi and Hashem Abedi in their radicalisation, nor what happened when they were in Libya were.
“This is because other family members, namely her parents and brother, were unwilling to testify to the investigation.
“Salman and Hashem’s parents were called to make statements but declined. As they are currently out of jurisdiction I have been unable to take any further action.
“Ismail Abedi (elder brother), who was in the country at the time I sought testimony, managed to leave the UK to avoid having to provide information that he was able to.
“If I had managed to get Ismail Abedi on the witness stand, whether he would have supported the investigation is very doubtful.”
Abedi had been in Libya for just over a month when the investigator said it was likely he received “special training in assembling an IED (improvised explosive device)” – and “how to make a deadlier device than this”. which probably resulted from the preparatory work before the trip.
Sir John said spies could follow Abedi’s car, in which he hid a batch of TATP known as “Mother of Satan” – the explosives used in the bomb.
He said: “If Security Service SA officers had successfully followed to the Nissan Micra, the attack might have been prevented.”
Abedi blew himself up at the Manchester venue in May 2017, killing 22 people (pictured).
Sir John said that Witness C, an MI5 officer who first assessed both pieces of intelligence, believed the first had “some national security significance” and the second “potential national security concerns”.
Witness A and Witness B, two other MI5 officers who checked the intelligence at the time, said that if they had received “further context” from Witness C about the initial intelligence, it “could have led to further investigative steps”.
If security were given the same information today, it would be likely that Abedi would open as a ‘low-level inquiry’ and conduct ‘low-level inquiries’ in conjunction with police, Sir John found.
Had the first intelligence been investigated, “there is a significant possibility that this would have resulted in security and/or (the police) finding out more about Salman Abedi’s activities,” Sir John said – although he added that information alone ” unlikely’ to have uncovered the conspiracy.
A number of other deficiencies identified in the report were:
- Abedi was not correctly classified as a formal area of interest, which would have led to a formal assessment of his threat. Instead, in 2014 and 2016, it was classified as a “de facto” sub-area of interest.
- In 2014 and 2015/16 he failed to refer Abedi to the Prevent deradicalisation program twice.
- Failing to analyze over 1,000 text messages exchanged between Abedi and an Islamic State fanatic, Abdalraouf Abdallah, imprisoned in Manchester in 2014.
- A delay in downloading the contents of an illegal mobile phone used by Abdallah in prison, seized in February 2017 but not investigated until June 2017, weeks after the bombing.
- The “risky” decision to focus on the terrorist threat posed by the then-Islamic State “caliphate” in Syria “meant that both the security agency and CTPNW (Counter-Terrorism Policing North West) identified the risk from Libya in 2017 underestimated”.
Sir John also highlighted MI5’s assessment in 2018 to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee that “having travel restrictions imposed on (Abedi) there may still have been insufficient time to identify or act on his attack planning.” However, it would have offered more opportunity.’
Earlier evidence for the investigation included 18 cases in which Salman Abedi’s name was identified during work by security services between 2014 and 2018.
His father had caught the attention of security services in 2011 when he was stopped twice in British ports in November of that year.
But Sir John stressed it was “quite impossible to say whether other or additional action by the authorities could have prevented the attack”.
The 22 victims of the terrorist attack during the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017
The retired judge, whose investigation began in 2020, said it was “highly likely” that Salman Abedi and his brother Hashem, who were involved in the bombing, “were radicalized in Libya” when they were taken there by their parents.
He added: “I also think they probably received some form of training or assistance building a bomb in Libya, as well as counter-surveillance training.”
Sir John said the threat from young Libyans like Salman Abedi and his brother Hashem, who are currently serving life sentences with a minimum of 55 years for assisting in an assault, was known as early as 2010.
That year, a “careful assessment” by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center identified “a risk of radicalization of young members of the Libyan community in Manchester” by “older generations,” which included al-Qaeda sympathizers.
Sir John said: “This assessment accurately predicted what subsequently happened to Salman Abedi and Hashem Abedi.”
Acknowledging the “very difficult” task facing the security services, he said that since 2017 alone, 37 late-stage terrorist attack plans have been disrupted.
“When security or counter-terrorism police make mistakes, they need to be identified and steps taken to correct them,” Sir John said.
The report found that Abedi was being radicalized by his family – his parents were credited with extremist views – and friends.
“He had almost no close connections or friendships that would tie him to law-abiding society,” Sir John said.
His report also found that Salman and Hashem Abedi were radicalized by his Islamic extremist father Ramadan Abedi and mother Samia Tabbal, both now in Libya, mingled with jihadist allies in Manchester and were taken to Libya during the country’s civil war .
Three key UK-based extremists were found to influence Salman Abedi – Abdallah, who was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for recruiting extremists to join the Islamic State in Syria, and Raphael Hostey, a Manchester-based jihadist who left his wife and child to join ISIS and was killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2016, and preacher Mansoor al-Anezi.
Al-Anezi, who was arrested in Exeter as part of an investigation into a failed suicide attack by Muslim convert Nicky Reilly in 2008, was in contact with Salman and Hashem for over four months before his death in January 2017, and the Abedi brothers attended his funeral attended.
Sir John found online material may also have “fueled their radicalization by glorifying the actions of Islamic State.”
“The material promoted armed struggle and martyrdom. It focused anger and hatred on Western society,” he said.
The head of the investigation said his recommendations to the security services would be released in a confidential document at a later date.
He said: “There was a significant missed opportunity to take action that could have prevented the attack.
“One of the reasons for this significant missed opportunity was the failure of a security guard to act quickly enough.”
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk
https://www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com/celebrity/security-services-could-have-stopped-manchester-arena-attack-report-says/ According to the report, security services could have stopped the attack on the Manchester Arena