Manchester Arena Inquiry Asked If There Were ‘Missed Opportunities’ to Stop Suicide Bomber

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by Chris Summers

On 22 May 2017 suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device in the foyer of Manchester Arena moments after an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 people. His brother Hashem was extradited from Libya and convicted by a jury in London.

The Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry has begun with a lawyer suggesting there were possibly “missed opportunities” to stop the suicide bomber.

The inquiry, which is being chaired by Sir John Saunders, will “explore the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the terror attack” and whether Salman Abedi’s attack could have been prevented.

Paul Greaney QC says they will consider evidence that at least once and possibly on two occasions someone drew attention to Salman Abedi acting suspiciously and that the inquiry will examine whether these were examples of missed opportunities to stop him.

— AMY WELCH (@amywelchitv) September 7, 2020

​Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, narrated CCTV footage of Abedi carrying a backpack which contained the bomb into the foyer of Manchester Arena – where US pop star Ariana Grande was playing a concert – on the night of 22 May.

He said Abedi was clearly “struggling” with the weight of the large black backpack and he looked “out of place” and “suspicious”, although that is only clear with the gift of hindsight.

But Mr Greaney said: “We know what he is going to do. Those who saw him on the night didn’t.”

Three Showsec stewards were near to Abedi in the minutes before he detonated the bomb. Paul Greaney QC says that despite them being warned by members of the public “None appear to be in a rush or concerned – all three were in these (same) positions when the bomb was detonated.”

— Judith Moritz (@JudithMoritz) September 7, 2020

​Mr Greaney said the inquiry would have to consider evidence that on one or possibly two occasions someone drew attention to the suspicious way Abedi was acting in the minutes before the attack and he said the inquiry would have to decide whether they were “missed opportunities” to stop his deadly attack, which killed 22 people.

He said Abedi remained in the foyer for around an hour on the night of the attack and said: “If the presence of the potential suicide bomber had been reported it is very likely mitigating actions would have been taken that could have reduced the impact of the attack.”

The Inquiry is told that Ismail Abedi, brother of Salman and Hashem, has not provided assistance – despite requests – in case he incriminates himself.

The Inquiry hears this is despite him providing an “interview” to Sky News last month pic.twitter.com/exPrzV5be9

— Daniel De Simone (@DdesimoneDaniel) September 7, 2020

​Mr Greaney said Witness A and Witness B – who were at the arena to collect their daughter from the concert – said they noticed a man with a backpack, who is thought to have been Salman Abedi, shortly before the bombing.

Witness A was very suspicious and approached the man, asking him what he was doing there.

The man said: “I’m waiting for somebody mate. Have you got the time?”

Witness A said he told a crowd control steward at the arena, Mohammed Agha, of his concerns but felt he was “fobbed off”.

Court hears that the first steward Mohammed Agha told his colleague, Kyle Lawler about Abedi. In a statement Mr Lawler later said the radio channels were too busy, and “I just froze and didn’t get anything out on the radio. I knew at that point it was too late.”

— Judith Moritz (@JudithMoritz) September 7, 2020

​Mr Greaney said Mr Agha spoke to a Showsec colleague, Kyle Lawler, and the two men can be seen looking at Abedi eight minutes before the bomb went off. He said Mr Agha and Mr Lawler had given conflicting statements about what was said and what actions they took.

Three Showsec stewards were near to Abedi in the minutes before he detonated the bomb. Paul Greaney QC says that despite them being warned by members of the public “None appear to be in a rush or concerned – all three were in these (same) positions when the bomb was detonated.”

— Judith Moritz (@JudithMoritz) September 7, 2020

The inquiry heard two members of the public saw Salman Abedi wearing a large backpack and praying an hour before the attack. One of them, Julie Merchant, approached a British Transport Police officer, PC Jessica Bullough – who was later the first officer to arrive at the scene after the bomb went off – but PC Bullough could not recall the conversation.

​The inquiry, which is taking place at Manchester Magistrates Court, was also shown footage of Abedi – bespectacled and wearing a baseball cap – carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” of the venue four days before the attack.

Police Constable Jessica Bullough was presented with The Queen’s Police Medal – PC Jessica was one of the first responders to arrive at the scene after the Manchester Arena attack, she gave first aid to seriously injured victims and supported and comforted victims overnight. pic.twitter.com/cbz61BNGqw

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) February 21, 2019

​Mr Greaney said the footage of him staring at queues of people in the arena foyer was “chilling” in the light of his later actions.

The inquiry’s remit includes the security arrangements around the arena, the emergency response to the bombing and the path to radical Islam, which Salman Abedi and his brother Hashem took.

The inquiry will also hear details about how each of the 22 victims died.

Last month Hashem Abedi, 23, was jailed for life and was given a record minimum term of 55 years after being convicted of 22 counts of murder, attempted murder and conspiring to cause explosions.

Hashem Abedi was extradited from Libya, where he had fled shortly before his brother carried out the attack.

The Abedi family were originally from Libya but had settled in Manchester.

Sputnik

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