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Manchester Arena bombing: MI5 officer accepts ‘different actions could have stopped plot’


Manchester Arena bombing: MI5 officer accepts ‘different actions could have stopped plot’

A senior MI5 officer has accepted that stopping and questioning the Manchester Arena terrorist, Salman Abedi, when he returned to the UK from Libya could have led police to the bomb.

The inquiry being held into the atrocity, which killed 22 concertgoers and injured hundreds of others, was hearing evidence from an intelligence officer given the pseudonym Witness J.

Visible only to lawyers and inquiry chair Sir John Saunders, Witness J said it was conceivable that different actions would have prevented Abedi carrying out the plot.

Abedi was born in Manchester to Libyan parents who fled the country after becoming opponents of Colonel Gaddafi.

Pete Weatherby QC, representing some of the bereaved families, said Abedi had left the UK with his family on a one way ticket to Libya on 15 April 2017.

He returned five weeks later carrying only hand luggage, four days before carrying out the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert.

The inquiry heard Abedi bought a new phone and sim card and took “anti-surveillance” measures to stay “off grid” by getting a bus and taxi to where he had left the bomb components

Weatherby said a “port stop” or “port action”, where someone is questioned and searched, could have revealed Abedi’s plans by something he said or something being uncovered on his phone.

“It’s certainly possible you would have observed slightly unusual behaviour at the airport then followed it on and, as I say, he would have led you to the bomb.

“If he had been stopped by police, putting that together, there’s a chance it would have stopped him carrying out the plot?”

Witness J replied: “Conceivably, yes.” But he added: “To offer some context, for us, or the police in combination, to follow the trail would have required us to be running a very high priority investigation.

“It would require almost certainly surveillance, normally allocated high priority investigations.

“We had fragments of what we know now. We had a blurred picture at that time and we did not conclude we had intelligence related to attack planning.”

On Monday Witness J had agreed that not stopping Abedi, taking a port action, had been a missed opportunity. He said: “Yes, I think that would have been the better course of action based on the information we had at the time.”

The MI5 officer, giving evidence from inside a specially built wooden box, said post-attack reviews concluded a “successful pre-emption of the attack would have been unlikely.”

He added: “I support that judgment because I have seen the material. The planning was well under way by the time he went to Libya.”

Saunders said he would be “looking critically” at the issue during closed hearings, where families of the bereaved, their lawyers and the press will be excluded while matters of national security are examined.

The hearing has heard that Abedi was a closed subject of interest (SOI) for MI5 at the time of the bombing, meaning he was not under investigation. He was one of 20,000 such closed SOIs with the security services also having 3,000 active SOIs on its radar.

In 2017, the inquiry has heard, MI5 was running about 500 investigations into individuals or organisations associated with Islamic terrorism, a scale described as “unprecedented in terms of the number of current investigations and number of subjects of interest”.

The inquiry is looking at all the background to the attack, which was carried out by Abedi with the help of his younger brother, Hashem, who was jailed for life for his part in the plot.

The hearing continues.

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MFM Varsity Name Founder, Olukoya Professor

The General Overseer of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, Dr Daniel Olukoya, has been appointed by Mountain Top University, MTU as a professor of Biotechnology.

In a statement on Wednesday, the university said that the  appointment of Olukoya, who is also the university’s Chancellor, was a result of the positive consideration shown by a relevant review by the council and the assessments of his publications by some of the world’s best scholars in biotechnology.

The statement read, “This is the result of the positive consideration given by relevant review committees and the Council of the University following the assessments of his publications by some of the world’s best scholars in Biotechnology, each of whom found him to be eminently appointable as Professor of Biotechnology.

“It needs to be underscored that this appointment is indeed well-deserved by Prof. D. K. Olukoya, who is an epitome of all-around excellence.

“He also engaged himself as a distinguished researcher and exceptional geneticist at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research between 1984 and 1998, during which he produced more than 70 scientific publications in the best local and international journals in the area of Microbiology and Biotechnology.

“He has also been cited more than a thousand times by scholars across the world.

“Not only has the new Professor of Biotechnology cut a niche for himself among eminent scholars in Microbiology and Biotechnology across the world, he has equally supervised many postgraduate students and continues to serve as a mentor and motivator to many Nigerian Microbiologists and Biotechnologists, many of whom have risen to professorial cadres in universities in and outside Nigeria.”

The statement added that Olukoya was severally offered the position in the 1990s by many universities, saying he chose to pursue his ministerial calling as directed by God.


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INEC Says 132, 626 Voters Cards Uncollected In Anambra

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that 132,626 Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) are yet to be collected in Anambra State.

The commission added that it has relocated six local government area collection centres in the state, as a result of the insecurity ravaging most parts of the country.

The state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Queen Elizabeth Agwu, stated this on Wednesday, during a meeting with stakeholders at the state headquarters of the commission.

Agwu who addressed all the political parties representatives, traditional rulers and civil society groups said the local government areas where the relocation of collation centres took place include Ihiala, Nnewi South, Onitsha North, Orumba North, Awka North and Awka South.

She said:“The collection of PVCs has been extended to Saturdays and Sundays in Anambra State.

“We need enough security to carry out this function. If people fail to collect their PVC, they will be shortchanging themselves, and doing a disservice to the people of their area.

“The 2023 general elections will be free, fair and credible, not only in Anambra State but the entire country. We have done the necessary work, and we hope to deliver.”

She gave a breakdown of the figures of uncollected PVCs in most local government areas as follows:

Ayamelum – 1,960; Dunukofia – 6,222; Idemili South – 4’589; Anaocha – 885; Orumba South -6,656; Onitsha South – 12,274; Idemili North – 16,256; Aguata – 12675; Njikoka – 7,009; Ogbaru – 10,755 and Anambra East – 7,717.

Others are Nnewi South – 1,841; Awka North – 1,153; Anambra West – 1,387; Orumba North – 2,393; Oyi – 7,982; Onitsha North – 9,990; Ihiala – 4,058; Nnewi North – 8,700; Ekwusigo – 3,350 and Awka South – 4,971.


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Osun LP Guber Candidate, Lasun Rejoins PDP

Yusuf Lasun, a former deputy speaker of the house of representatives, has rejoined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The governor of Osun, Ademola Adeleke made the announcement on Wednesday at the PDP presidential rally in Osogbo, the Osun capital.

“The former deputy speaker has joined the PDP family. He used to be in PDP, but today, he has decided to come and join the PDP family,” the governor said.

Lasun, who was present at the rally, hailed supporters after a terse remark.

Lasun had contested the 2022 governorship election in Osun on the platform of the Labour Party (LP).

Adeleke came first in the election; Gboyega Oyetola of the APC placed second; Kehinde Atanda of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) came third; while Lasun came a distant fourth.

He was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) until February when he resigned from the party after losing the party’s governorship ticket.

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