Police apologise for making fake suicide bomber shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ in counter-terror exercise

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Greater Manchester Police said it was unacceptable to use a phrase ‘which so vocally linked the exercise with Islam’

KG Web Desk

Srinagar, May 10: Police have apologised for making a fake Islamist suicide bomber use a “religious phrase” during a counter-terror exercise in Manchester, reports UK-based online newspaper The Independent.

A man playing the part of a terrorist in a simulated attack at the Trafford Centre repeatedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) before acting out an explosion, sending hundreds of volunteers running for cover on Monday night.

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The emergency services and volunteers take part in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Getty Images)

Community groups and activists condemned the use of “stereotypes” for the exercise, with some raising concerns it would fuel anti-Muslim prejudice.

In response to criticism, Greater Manchester Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Gary Shewan, said the decision was “unacceptable” and apologised for any offence caused, as per the report.

“The 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,” he as per the report said in a statement.

“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.”

Dr Erinma Bell, who was made an MBE for her anti-gun campaign work in Manchester, was among those criticising the decision.

“We need to move away from stereotypes if we want to achieve real learning,” she wrote on Twitter. “A terrorist can be anyone.”

Anti-Islamophobia group the Community Safety Forum called the use of the phrase “Allahu Akbar” offensive and said it was not necessary to make the scenario real.

“This sort of thing panders to stereotypes and further divides us,” a spokesperson added. “It will increase anti-Muslim hate crime.”

But many Twitter users were defending the simulation, saying it was justified to imitate the events of the Brussels and Paris attacks.

The exercise started at midnight, when a man dressed in black walked in and shouted at the crowd.

Moments later an explosion rocked the food hall and volunteers, wearing ear defenders and safety glasses, dropped to the floor.

Many wore make-up to simulate serious injuries and others screamed out for help in The Orient food court as the sound of gunfire rang out and armed officers moved in.

Police stressed that there was no specific threat to the Trafford Centre, which is the second-largest in the UK.

The exercise, codenamed Exercise Winchester Accord, was planned in December and is part of a national programme, coming after previous drills in London, Glasgow and Essex.

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