MI5 missed a “significant” opportunity to stop the Manchester Arena bomb attack in May 2017, the Manchester Arena Inquiry has concluded. Inquiry chairman and former high court judge, Sir. John Saunders, read out the findings in Manchester Hall on Thursday afternoon.
“I have concluded that there were a number of contributory factors to Salman Abedi’s radicalisation,” said Sir. John Saunders. “His family background and his parents’ extremist views along with their participation in the struggle in Libya played a significant part.”
Sir. John Saunders continued: “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. 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 inquiry heard that Manchester-born Abedi had been on the radar of the security services as early as 2010 - seven years before the bombing on May 22, 2017. Twenty-two people died and hundreds were injured when Abedi detonated a bomb he was carrying in a ruck sack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
Sir. John Saunders continued:“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.”
Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said she was “grateful” to Sir. John Saunders for heading up the inquiry and vowed to “do everything possible” to stop a similar attack from happening in the future.
“Today is a difficult day. On 22 May 2017, an act of pure evil took the lives of 22 people at Manchester Arena. My thoughts are with their loved ones and all those who had their lives changed forever.
“Over the past three years, the Manchester Arena Inquiry has carefully analysed critical evidence to ensure vital lessons are learned. I am grateful to Sir John Saunders and his team for their thorough and considered approach.
“I am committed to working with MI5, policing and partners to study the recommendations. Together we will do everything possible to prevent a repeat of this horrifying attack.”