Manchester Arena Attack ‘Might Have Been Averted’ Report Finds

Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi was a former “subject of interest” and it is “conceivable” the attack “might have been averted had the cards fallen differently”, an official review has confirmed.

The revelation came in a report by David Anderson QC examining the way police and the security services handled intelligence before four terrorist attacks hit London and Manchester earlier this year.

Anderson found that three of the six terrorists involved in those attacks – which claimed more than 30 lives between March and June – were on the security services’ radar.

Abedi detonated a shrapnel-laded homemade bomb on May 22 as people were leaving Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed and a further 500 injured.

Adebi was twice a “subject of interest” to MI5 in the year before the attack but investigations were closed and the threat Abedi posed was downgraded, the report said.

Fresh intelligence was also received in the months before the 22-year-old’s suicide bombing, but its “significance was not fully appreciated at the time”.

“In retrospect, the intelligence can be seen to have been highly relevant to the planned attack,” the report found.

An MI5 meeting due to discuss Abedi, a Briton born to Libyan parents, was scheduled for 31 May – nine days after the bombing.

Anderson, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, reviewed reports into the attacks at Westminster Bridge on 22 March, the Manchester Arena bombing, the London Bridge attack on 3 June and the incident at Finsbury Park Mosque on 19 June.

Khalid Masood, who was behind the Westminster attack that claimed five lives, was previously investigated by authorities for extremist links and criminal activity, the report found, but his case was closed five years before he launched his car and knife offensive. 

The ringleader of the London Bridge attack, Khuram Butt, was still being actively investigated by police and the intelligence services, on suspicion of attack planning, when he struck along with two others. The trio killed eight people and injured 48.

The investigation into Butt, Operation Hawthorn, began in 2015 following information suggesting that he “aspired to conduct an attack in the UK”.

Outlining the review findings, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs that blame for the “cowardly” attacks “lies squarely” with the terrorists and those who encouraged them.

Responding to the report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick called for “better infrastructures and resources at a time when the threat from terrorism poses significant challenges for police and security services”.

The attack at Parsons Green on 15 September was not covered by Anderson’s report.

Earlier today Downing Street revealed nine terror attacks had been thwarted in the UK during the past year.