Greater Manchester’s police commissioner has been forced to apologise after a simulated suicide bomber shouted an Islamic religious phrase during a counter-terror training exercise.
It was “ill-judged and unacceptable” for the man playing a terrorist to shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is great, in Arabic) before setting off his fake device, Tony Lloyd said.
Armed police officers, backed by special security forces, carried out a four-hour simulation at the Trafford Centre shopping complex on Monday night.
A man wearing black walked in through the front door of the centre and let off a fake explosive device.
Many of the 800 volunteer participants wore bloodied shirts and make-up of serious injuries, running for cover while gunshots rang out around the Orient food hall.
The exercise was meant to see how authorities would handle a terrorist attack on Manchester and Salford.
Chilling images and video of a staged attack by bombers using the tactics of Islamic State/Daesh/ISIS were released to the media this morning.
But outrage erupted on social media when it emerged the ‘killer’ had repeatedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” before setting off his fake device.
Critics said the image played to stereotypes of terrorists and was harmful to community relations.
Others supported the move, saying the Paris and Brussels attacks were reasonable indications of the kind of people who would carry out such an attack.
Greater Manchester Police admitted that the phrase “vocally linked the exercise with Islam” and formally apologised.
In a statement Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: ““he scenario for this exercise is based on a suicide attack by an extremist Daesh [Isis] 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 those involved.
Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said the operation had been a success, but added: “It is frustrating the operation has been marred by the ill-judged, unnecessary and unacceptable decision by organisers to have those playing the parts of terrorists to shout ‘Allah Akbar’ [sic] before setting off their fake bombs.
“It didn’t add anything to the event, but has the potential to undermine the great community relations we have in Greater Manchester.”
The operation was codenamed Winchester Accord and follows similar drills in London, Glasgow and Essex.
Police stressed that there was no specific threat to the Trafford Centre.