MI5 counter-terrorism police missed chances to prevent the 2017 Manchester Arena attack through a series of failings in the handling of the bomber, Salman Abedi, a parliamentary watchdog has concluded.
Thirty-six people died and hundreds more were injured when Abedi detonated a homemade bomb in the foyer of the Arena on 22 May last year as the Ariana Grande concert was finishing.
Abedi visited a known extremist contact in prison on more than one occasion, however no follow-up action was taken by either MI5 or counter-terror police.
In a report on the five terrorist attacks in 2017, the intelligence and security committee (ISC) singled out the handling of Abedi’s case by MI5 and counter-terrorism police for damming crisis.
“What we can say is that there were a number of failures in the handling of Salman Abedi’s case and, while it is impossible to say whether these would have prevented the devastating attack on 22 May, we have concluded that as a result of the failings, potential opportunities to prevent it were missed,” said Dominic Grieve, the Tory chair of the ISC.
The report also criticised the Home Office over its failure to cooperate with the committee’s inquiry into the Parsons Green tube attack in September last year, in which more than 50 people were injured by a partially exploded bomb left by Ahmed Hassan, an Iraqi-born teenager.
Among failings highlighted by the committee in the Abedi case were:
- MI5 and counter-terrorism police failed to take any follow-up action after Abedi visited a known extremist contact in prison, previously named in media reports as Abdal Raouf Abdallah, who was jailed for trying to help people travel to Syria to fight with militants.
- MI5 did not place monitoring or travel restrictions on Abedi, which allowed him to return to the UK undetected in the days immediately before the attack.
- Abedi, a subject of interest to MI5 but not under active investigation, had been flagged for review by the security service but its systems “moved too slowly” and the review did not happen before the attack.
- Abedi was never considered for referral to the Prevent programme.
The report said there was one issue that caused ‘serious concern’ but could not be revealed due to ‘highly sensitive security aspects’ but would be raised with the prime minister in a classified report.