MI5 chiefs did not respond to two separate warnings that the Manchester Arena attacker was buying bomb-making ingredients in the months leading up to the outcry.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that the agency received two ‘pieces of information’ about the purchase of chemicals by Salman Abedi and his associates, but was unaware of the ‘importance’ of the information.
Sir John Saunders, the chairman of the inquiry, revealed in his final report that a delay in reporting the second piece of intelligence within MI5 and to the police resulted in a ‘significant missed opportunity to take action that could have prevented the attack’.
But a source dealing with national security issues has told how the two pieces of information related to Abedi, 22, and his associates buying “pre-cursor chemicals” used to make an explosive called triacetone triperoxide (TATP), nicknamed Mother of Satan.
It was this substance that was contained in the deadly bomb that killed 22 victims – half of whom were children – at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that the agency has received two ‘pieces of information’ about Salman Abedi’s purchase of chemicals (pictured)
It is unclear why the information was mishandled.
Relatives of the victims reacted angrily last night. Andrew Roussos, whose eight-year-old daughter Saffie-Rose was the youngest victim of the atrocity, said: “This information is essential to understanding the magnitude of the intelligence failures.”
Mr Roussos and at least 15 other families have previously spoken about their plans to sue MI5 for negligence. The Manchester Arena inquiry was highly critical of MI5, accusing it of being responsible for an intelligence ‘mistake’ in the run-up to the attack.
It was these damning conclusions that prompted MI5 Director General Ken McCallum to issue a rare public apology to the families of the victims. In November 2021, Sir John held closed hearings on evidence that could not be reported by the media.
During a ten-day session, Sir John heard testimonies from five MI5 agents – including those who actually handled and assessed the two pieces of intelligence.
In his report, Sir John said that Witness J, speaking on behalf of the Agency, said the two pieces of intelligence were deemed not to be related to terrorism.
But MI5 agents, Witnesses A, B and C, told the inquiry that they believed the second piece of intelligence, when viewed alongside the first piece, could be of “urgent national security concerns.”
Despite this, the investigation found that the two pieces of intelligence were not acted upon quickly enough or shared with the anti-terrorism police. Meanwhile, MI5’s internal report on this was delayed and did not provide enough context for other officers to understand its full significance.
Andrew Roussos, whose eight-year-old daughter Saffie-Rose (pictured), was the youngest victim of the atrocity, said: ‘This information is essential to understanding the magnitude of the intelligence errors’
Sir John concluded, had MI5 acted on his intelligence, Abedi could have been stopped and searched at Manchester Airport on his return from a trip to Libya four days before the attack.
The investigation also found that he could have been tracked afterwards, possibly leading MI5 to a Nissan Micra used to store the home-made explosives.
Abedi and his younger brother Hashem, 26 – who is now serving life in prison – persuaded two cousins and a friend to buy them sulfuric acid on Amazon.
Hashem Abedi’s trial at the Old Bailey heard he told his two cousins - who had been cleared of any wrongdoing by police – that the acid was for topping up a car battery. But it was actually one of the ingredients needed for the bomb.
Next came the purchase of hydrogen peroxide, the key ingredient for TATP, through bogus Amazon accounts. MI5 had claimed that the agents analyzing the intelligence regarded it as ‘criminal activity’ linked to ‘drugs or organized crime’.
Hydrogen peroxide can be used for hydroponics, the process used to grow cannabis plants in water – and Salman and Hashem Abedi have been drug users in the past.
But the chemical was also the main ingredient in the suicide bombs used in the July 7, 2005 London Transport bombings.
Last night a spokesman for the Home Office, speaking on behalf of MI5, said: ‘The Chairman [Sir John] has published its findings and the government will not speculate on them.”