Families of victims of Manchester bombings file lawsuit against MI5

Hundreds of survivors of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing have filed a lawsuit against Britain's government intelligence agency MI5, their lawyers said.

Three main firms – Hudgell Solicitors, Slater & Gordon and Broudie Jackson Canter – said in a statement on Sunday that they represented more than 250 victims of the attack and the families of those killed, and lodged a collective complaint with the Investigative Powers Tribunal. , an independent judicial body that examines complaints against British intelligence.

“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are neither able to provide further details, nor comment further, at this stage,” the group's statement read.

The lawsuit comes a year after an independent public inquiry found that MI5, the national security service, failed to act on two critical pieces of information about the bomber that could have prevented the atrocity.

It appears to be the first time MI5 has been sued for its failure to prevent a terrorist attack, a maneuver that is sure to be legally and bureaucratically complicated if the court takes up the case.

Holding security services accountable for their failures is notoriously difficult. The families of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in America have been trying for two decades, as part of a lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia, to obtain more information about the actions of the FBI and CIA that led to the tragedy , with little success.

Twenty-two people were killed in the attack on May 22, 2017, in which a suicide bomber detonated a powerful homemade explosive near the exit of the Manchester Arena as a crowd of people left an Ariana Grande concert. Hundreds more were injured. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK in more than a decade.

Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out by Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old member of the terror group who had returned to the UK from Libya four days before the attack. Not long after he returned, he picked up an explosive device that had been stored in a vehicle in Manchester.

The independent public inquiry found in 2023 that the attack was a “significant missed opportunity” for Britain's domestic intelligence services, which the report said could have intercepted Abedi had he acted more quickly on his return from Libya. The agency, the report said, failed to act on two key pieces of intelligence related to Abedi that could have offered a “realistic chance” of preventing the attack, although it did not specify what that information was.

“I deeply regret that such information was not obtained,” Ken McCallum, director of MI5, said at the time. “Gathering hidden information is difficult, but if we had managed to seize the slim chance we had, those affected would not have suffered such appalling loss and trauma.” He added that he was “deeply sorry”.

The lawsuit announced this weekend was filed with the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the independent judicial body that handles complaints about the country's security services. The commission can, among other things, establish guilt, issue orders and award compensation.

The court could not immediately be reached for comment. Asked whether MI5 had any comment on the case, the Home Office referred to McCallum's statement on the independent inquiry released last year.

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