Greater Manchester Police apologise after fake suicide bomber shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar’ during Trafford Centre terror drill
Police boss ACC Garry Shewan said sorry after receiving several critical tweets claiming the training exercise had ‘stereotyped’ Muslims
STEVE ROBSON 12:30, 10 MAY 2016 UPDATED17:49, 10 MAY 2016
A police chief has apologised over today’s terror drill at the Trafford Centre after critics claimed it had ‘stereotyped’ Muslims.
The training exercise involved a fake suicide bomber who shouting “Allahu Akhbar” while detonating explosives and opening fire in the middle of a busy shopping centre
But Greater Manchester Police came under fire from a number of people on Twitter who felt the portrayal was ‘anti-Muslim’.
Dr Erinma Bell blasted: “We need to move away from stereotypes if we want to achieve Real learning. A terrorist can be any one.”
And Manchester University Diversity Officer Ilyas Nagdee posted: “Stupid decision by @gmpolice to decide attackers should be seen as Muslim. Maybe that’s why Islamophobias gone up 300% in the UK.
“The exercise was about preparation of emergency services and their responses.
“It did not require attackers to be seen as Muslim.”
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The CommunitySafetyForum said: “This sort of thing panders to stereotypes and further divides us. It will increase anti-Muslim hate crime.”
This afternoon Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester responded to the criticism with an apology.
He tweeted: “This was unacceptable and I apologise for the offence caused.”
Later in a statement he added: “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 organization 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 to Islam. We recognize and apologise for the offence this has caused.”
Some felt the police apology was unnecessary.
Ex-Met Police detective Peter Kirkham wrote: “Weak response: exercise PLAINLY set in context of recent Islamic extremist attacks. That is ENTIRELY defensible.”
Another Twitter critic added: “Excercise in response to attacks in Mumbai, France x 2 and Belgium. “Allahu Akhbar” much in context”
The exercise was one of Britain’s biggest ever counter terrorism training exercises with 800 volunteers recruited to play the dead and wounded.
Victims smeared in fake blood were seen running for their lives during the mock-up, while scores more were forced to play dead as the ‘terrorists’ attempted to seize control of the shopping centre.
The exercise has been in the planning since December 2015 and will continue over the next two nights in separate locations – as if to mimic the horrific attack that targeted several different areas in the French capital in November last year, killing 137 people.
It involves the city’s police force, working with other agencies including Merseyside Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service and counter-terrorism officers to examine and evaluate the response to a major attack.
The exercise followed similar simulations to have taken place in London, Glasgow and Essex in recent months.
Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe said: “This exercise is part of a national programme that has been planned extensively for five months.
“We have worked closely with the Trafford Centre and other emergency services to test our response to a major terrorist incident in a public place, which for part of this exercise is a shopping centre.
“Residents in the area may hear loud noises and see emergency services activity around the Trafford Centre during the exercise and I can reassure people that there is no cause for concern.
“However, I would still urge people to contact police if they do have any concerns or want to report anything and are not sure if it is linked to the exercise.
“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 may be critical.
“I want to make it clear that this is not linked to any specific terror threat or attack, but is an opportunity for us to make sure we are in the best position possible, should a terrorist attack happen in the North West.
“This exercise has allowed us to build and strengthen our relationship with intu Trafford Centre and I would like to thank them for allowing all the participants to use their centre.
“Their support in the planning of this exercise demonstrates their commitment to test their response to a major incident and protect their staff and customers.”