Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi who killed 22 people ‘should have been identified as threat,’ inquiry finds

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The suicide bomber who killed 22 people and injured hundreds of others at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England should have been spotted as a threat, a public inquiry into the 2017 attack has found.

Inquiry chief John Saunders said there “were a number of opportunities which were missed” that should have “prevented or minimised the devastating impact” of Salman Abedi’s bomb attack.

In the first of his three reports, published on Thursday, Saunders was highly critical of the security arrangements at the Manchester Arena ahead of the attack by Abedi, who was said to have been inspired by the Islamic State terrorist group (formerly ISIS).

Abedi detonated the device, concealed in his backpack, in the venue’s foyer area as many parents waited to collect children after the show.

Those “principally responsible” for the missed opportunities were entertainment company SMG, which ran the arena, its contracted security firm Showsec, and the British Transport Police (BTP), Saunders said.

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However, he also said there were “failings by individuals,” including that of Showsec security guard Mohammed Agha, which Saunders said was the “most striking” missed opportunity of all.

Agha had spoken to a concerned member of the public, Christopher Wild, who had confronted Abedi and asked what was in his bag just minutes before the bomb went off, the report said. In his evidence, Wild said he felt “fobbed off” by Agha after telling the security guard that he thought Abedi might “let a bomb off.”

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Saunders said Abedi “should have been identified on May 22, 2017 as a threat by those responsible for the security of the Arena and a disruptive intervention undertaken.”

Had that occurred, I consider it likely that Abedi would still have detonated his device, but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less.

Other failings identified in the inquiry’s report included SMG’s “inadequate” CCTV, which Saunders said had caused a blind spot that enabled Abedi to hide before his attack. The inquiry lead criticised stewards’ counter-terrorism training and the fact that there was no BTP officer stationed in the foyer area.

The inquiry chief also made nine recommendations, including that the government’s ‘Protect Duty’, which is currently still under public consultation, should be made into legislation to enhance security at venues.

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