Greater Manchester Police have apologised after an actor shouted “allahu akbar” during a simulated terror attack last night.
The staged training exercise took place at the Trafford Centre shopping mall, in which panicking members of the public screamed as a fake suicide bomber blew himself up.
A simulated terror attack saw volunteers covered in fake blood and an actor playing a terrorist in Manchester https://t.co/CSnNO4ChNP
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 10, 2016
Footage of the exercise, designed to test the police force’s response to a real terror attack, appeared online this morning, but Greater Manchester Police faced criticism that the suicide bomber had been linked to Islam.
The Manchester Evening News says that local doctor Siema Iqbal was one of those who asked for an apology.
She tweeted: “Please provide an explanation @gmpolice @RSutcliffeACC @amandacomms why the terrorist in #CTexercise was #Muslim and shouted Allah Akhbar.”
A group called the Community Safety Forum also tweeted: “This sort of thing panders to stereotypes and further divides us. It will increase anti-Muslim hate crime.”
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan responded to the complaints on Twitter, apologising for any offence caused and saying the use of the phrase was unacceptable.
— ACC Garry Shewan (@ACCGarryShewan) May 10, 2016
He then issued a statement saying: “For the past 24 hours, GMP, along with other agencies, has been hosting a counter terrorism training exercise based at the Trafford Centre, which began with a mock suicide bomber detonating a bomb inside the shopping centre.
“It is a necessity for agencies including the police to train and prepare using exercises such as this, so that we would be in the best possible position to respond in the event that the unthinkable happened and an attack took place.
“The scenario for this exercise is based on a suicide attack by an extremist Daesh 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 of those involved.
“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 theoffence that this has caused.”