Government report suggests Manchester Arena atrocity 'could conceivably have been averted'

Posted On: 
5th December 2017

The Manchester Arena attack could “conceivably” have been prevented if “the cards had fallen differently”, according to a new government report on this year’s terror atrocities. 

Armed police outside the Manchester Arena following May's attack
Credit: 
PA

Leading QC David Anderson made 126 recommendations after analysing a series of classified reviews by MI5 and counter-terror police on the lead-up to the attacks at Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

Mr Anderson, a former government terror adviser, said that although the security services’ actions had been “for the most part sound”, there were “many learning points” to take on board.

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Although he made clear he was not trying to cast blame, Mr Anderson said it was "conceivable" the Manchester attack “might have been averted had the cards fallen differently”.

His report notes that attacker Salman Abedi was a closed 'subject of interest' (SOI) to the security services, meaning he was not under active investigation.

However, MI5 did receive intelligence on Abedi in the months leading up to the bombing which the report states "can be seen to have been highly relevant to the planned attack".

He was also identified as one of a small number of closed SOIs who may have merited further investigation, and a meeting to discuss his and other cases had been due on 31 May, just nine days after the attack took place.

THWARTED PLOTS 

Elsewhere Home Secretary Amber Rudd revealed that MI5 and the police had disrupted some 22 plots since the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013, including nine since the Westminster attack in March of this year.

At the same time Mr Anderson’s report makes clear that the security services are fighting an uphill battle to prevent every attempt on civilian life.

“In a free society and against a worsening threat background, it is not realistic to expect everything to be stopped,” he wrote.

‘UNITED IN OUR CLARITY’

Ms Rudd told MPs the only responsibility for the attacks lay with the attackers themselves.

“There will be those who seek to apportion blame for the attacks,” she said.

“We should be united in our clarity that it lies squarely with those whose cowardly acts killed 36 innocent people this year, and those who encouraged them.”

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the Government had questions to answer on the amount of resources being given to counter-terror policing.

“MI5 and Counter-Terrorism police have already identified improved neighbourhood policing as a key part of their prevention strategy. The government needs to accept that.

"But they have cut police numbers and police weren’t even mentioned in the Budget. The report also says that, after an increase in Counter-Terrorism spending, grant allocations will be cut over the next three years."