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Police apologise for 'Allahu Akbar' use in mock Manchester attack


Greater Manchester police say it was unacceptable to use religious phrase immediately before fake suicide bombing

Greater Manchester police have apologised after a fake suicide bomber shouted “Allahu Akbar” during a simulated terrorist attack at one of the UK’s biggest shopping centres.

More than 800 volunteers took part in the staged training exercise at the Trafford Centre in Manchester on Monday night. The mock attack, which took five months to plan, was designed to be similar to the marauding-style Paris and Brussels atrocities.

The assistant chief constable, Garry Shewan, released a statement on Tuesday, apologising for linking the exercise with Islam, after the police were criticised on social media following the drill. “Allahu Akbar” means God is greater, in Arabic.

An actor playing the part of a shopper, runs for cover during the simulation at the Trafford centre.
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 An actor playing the part of a shopper, runs for cover during the simulation at the Trafford centre. Photograph: Sean Hansford/MEN/AFP/Getty Images

“For the past 24 hours, GMP, along with other agencies, has been hosting a counterterrorism training exercise based at the Trafford Centre, which began with a mock suicide bomber detonating a bomb inside the shopping centre,” Shewan said.
“It is a necessity 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 an extremist Daesh-style organisation and the scenario writers have centred the circumstances around previous similar attacks of this nature, mirroring details of past events to make the situation as real life as possible for all of those involved.

“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 with Islam. We recognise and apologise for the offence that this has caused.”

A simulation of the moment a suicide bomber detonates an explosive.
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 A simulation of the moment a suicide bomber detonates an explosive Photograph: Sean Hansford/MEN/AFP/Getty Images
 

Dr Erinma Bell MBE retweeted Iqbal, adding: “Good question. We need to move away from stereotypes if we want to achieve Real learning. A terrorist can be anyone.” 

The Community Safety Forum, an anti-Islamophobia organisation, said: “This sort of thing panders to stereotypes and further divides us. It will increase anti-Muslim hate crime.”

Armed police officers during the Trafford centre exercise.
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 Armed police officers during the Trafford centre exercise. Photograph: Sean Hansford / MEN/PA

The shopping centre was open as usual on Tuesday, although the exercise was due to continue unseen and at unspecified locations until Wednesday, when it will finish in Merseyside.

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