A suicide attack at a concert given by pop star Ariana Grande in Manchester, England, in May might have been foiled had British investigators grasped the importance of “highly relevant” intelligence that reached their desks, says a new government-commissioned report quoted by the Washington Post. “It is conceivable that the Manchester attack in particular might have been averted had the cards fallen differently,” the review said. It noted that the bomber, Salman Abedi, 22, had been a “subject of interest” but was not under active investigation at the time of the attack. Abedi was born and raised in Manchester. He had traveled to and from Libya in the days before he struck at Manchester Arena, killing 22 people and wounding more than 100.
The suicide bombing was one of four terrorist attacks in Britain this year studied by David Anderson, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. He was allowed to examine nine classified internal reviews, totaling 1,150 pages, that were conducted by counterterrorism police and the domestic intelligence service MI5. Anderson said authorities might have missed important intelligence in the Manchester case. He noted, “Attacks continue to be successfully disrupted, often after intensive and painstaking work, with successful prosecutions and long prison sentences a regular occurrence.” Anderson was briefed on 20 recently thwarted plots. Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, said counterterrorism forces are “running well over 500 live operations — a third up since the beginning of the year — involving roughly 3,000 subjects of interest.” In general, Anderson said, “In an increasingly high-volume business, where success and failure depend on tiny margins, there will almost certainly be future cases in which these recommendations will tip the balance in favor of the security forces.”