Families of Manchester Bombing Victims File Lawsuit Against MI5

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

Three lead firms — Hudgell Solicitors, Slater & Gordon and Broudie Jackson Canter — said in a statement on Sunday that they were representing more than 250 victims of the bombing and family members of those killed, and have submitted a group claim to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, an independent judicial body that hears complaints against Britain’s intelligence services.

“As it is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable or provide any further details, or comment further, at this stage,” the group statement said.

The lawsuit comes a year after an independent public inquiry found that MI5, the domestic security service, failed to act on two pieces of critical intelligence 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 terror attack, a maneuver that is sure to be legally and bureaucratically complicated should the tribunal accept the case.

Holding security services accountable for failures is notoriously difficult. Families of victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in America have tried for two decades, as part of a lawsuit against the Saudi Arabian government, to obtain more information on the F.B.I.’s and C.I.A.’s actions leading up 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 Manchester Arena exit as throngs of people were leaving an Ariana Grande concert. Hundreds more were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack in the United Kingdom in more than a decade.

The Islamic State later claimed credit for the bombing, which was carried out by Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old adherent of the terror group who had returned to the U.K. from Libya four days before the attack. Not long after his return, he picked up an explosive device that had been stored in a vehicle in Manchester.

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

“I deeply regret that such intelligence was not obtained,” Ken McCallum, the director of MI5, said at the time. “Gathering covert intelligence is difficult — but had we managed to seize the slim chance we had, those impacted might not have experienced such appalling loss and trauma.” He added that he was “profoundly sorry.”

The lawsuit announced this weekend was filed to the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the independent judicial body that handles complaints about the country’s security services. Among other things, the panel can assess culpability, issue orders and award compensation.

The Tribunal could not be immediately reached for comment. Asked if MI5 had any comment on the lawsuit, the Home Office pointed to Mr. McCallum’s statement on the independent inquiry released last year.

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