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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Police apologise after fake suicide bomber shouts 'Allahu Akbar' in counter-terrorist exercise

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 10/05/2016 | 17:47

A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
An armed police officer during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
People playing the role of injured shoppers react during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire

A police chief has apologised for featuring a fake suicide bomber shouting “Allahu Akbar” in a counter-terrorism training exercise.

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As part of the drill, a mock terrorist detonated explosives and opened fire in the food court of the Trafford Centre in Manchester, one of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, on Monday night.

More than 800 volunteers took part, with some covered in fake blood to act as the dead and wounded victims and others playing the terrorists attempting to gain control of the busy shopping centre.

The six-hour exercise, organised by the city’s police force, aimed to test the emergency response to an extremist strike in the wake of the atrocities in Paris and Brussels.

People playing the role of injured shoppers react during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
People playing the role of injured shoppers react during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire

Along with the police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Merseyside Police and the North West Ambulance Service also took part in the staged exercise.

It is set to continue over the next two nights in separate unknown locations, to resemble the attacks in Paris last November that killed 137 people.

Before detonating the explosive device, one of the fake terrorists cried “Allahu Akbar”, which is Arabic for “God is greatest”.

People were quick to criticise the explicit association of terrorism with Islam on Twitter, claiming the depiction of the terrorist during the simulation represented a negative stereotype of Muslims.

A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire

The assistant chief constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester police released a statement apologising for the act.

“For the past 24 hours GMP, along with other agencies has been hosting a counter terrorism training exercise based at the Trafford Centre which began with a mock suicide bomber detonating a bomb outside the shopping centre.

“It is necessary for agencies including the police to train and prepare using exercises such as this so that we would be in the best possible position to respond in the event that the unthinkable happened and an attack took place.

“The scenario for this exercise is based on a suicide attack by extremist Daesh style organisation and the scenario writers have centred the circumstances around previous similar attacks of this nature, mirroring the details of past events to make the situation as real life as possible for all of those involved.

An armed police officer during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire
An armed police officer during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester Credit: Sean Hansford / Manchester Evening News / Pool /PA Wire

“However, on reflection we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use this religious phrase immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise to Islam.

"We recognise and apologise for the offence this has caused," he said."

The drill is the latest in a series of exercises as part of a national programme that has been planned since December 2015.

Similar simulations took place in London, Glasgow and Essex in recent months.

“Our priority is to stop terrorists from planning and orchestrating attacks and with exercises like this, we can put our response to the test in a safe environment, so we are fully prepared for a time when it be may critical,” said Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe.

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