London : Greater Manchester Police have apologised for making a fake Islamist suicide bomber use a “religious phrase” during a counter-terror exercise in Manchester.
A fake suicide bomber dressed in black walked into the Trafford Centre and repeatedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great)” before acting out an explosion on Monday night, drawing criticism from the community members for the use of stereotypes for the exercise.
As per the exercise, moments after an explosion rocked the food hall, the volunteers, wearing ear defenders and safety glasses, dropped to the floor and ran into shops and cafes screaming.
Many wore make-up to simulate serious injuries and others shouted for help as the sound of gunfire rang out and armed officers moved in.
Community groups and activists condemned the move with some raising concerns that it would fuel anti-Muslim prejudice.
In response to criticism, Greater Manchester Police’s assistant chief constable Gary Shewan apologised for any offence caused and said the decision was “unacceptable”.
“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,” Independent quoted him as saying.
“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, ” he said.
Asserting the use of the phrase “Allahu Akbar” as offensive, Anti-islamophobia group the Community Safety Forum said it was not necessary to make the scenario real.
“This sort of thing panders to stereotypes and further divides us. It will increase anti-Muslim hate crime, ” a spokesperson said .
However, many Twitter users defending the simulation, saying it was justified to imitate the events of the Brussels and Paris attacks.
Meanwhile, police stressed that there was no specific threat to the Trafford Centre.
The exercise is part of a national programme, codenamed Exercise Winchester Accord. It was planned in December comes after previous drills in London, Glasgow and Essex.(ANI)