Police chief apologizes after fake Muslim shouts 'Allahu Akbar' in simulated suicide bomb attack at Manchester's Trafford Centre.
A police chief has been forced to apologise for featuring a fake Muslim shouting "Allahu Akbar" in a major counter terrorism training exercise against Isil.
The exercise had depicted a suicide bomber detonating explosives and opening fire in the middle of a busy shopping mall.
But critics claimed the depiction of the terrorist "stereotyped" Muslims during the mock up at the Trafford Centre, near Manchester which was aimed at testing the emergency response to an extremist attack in the wake of ISIS led assaults on Paris and Brussels.
Dr Erinma Bell, who describes herself as a "Community Activist in Peace & Conflict Resolution" blasted on Twitter:
Manchester University's diversity officer Ilyas Nagdee posted:
The CommunitySafetyForum said:
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester then said sorry after receiving several critical tweets about the exercise.
Later in a statement he added: "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 outside the shopping centre.
"It is necessary 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 extremist Daesh style organization 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 to Islam. We recognize and apologise for the offence this has caused."
But Twitter user Spinderinabox said: "apologising for the truth? This country is too damn soft." And Colin Piri wrote: "@gmpolice Why apologise? It's a proven fact!!!"
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, added: "There was no need for the Chief Constable to apologise I regard it as puzzling. His force was only doing their job.
"It is established fact that Islamic jihadis are the most serious threat to the UK at this time and it was important that the demonstration should be as realistic as possible."
The exercise had been hailed as one of the biggest counter terrorism training exercises to ever take place on these shores which 800 volunteers recruited to play the dead and wounded.
Victims smeared in fake blood were seen running for their lives during the mock-up, while scores more were forced to play dead as the "terrorists" attempted to seize control of the shopping mall.
The exercise has been in the planning since December 2015 and will continue over the next two nights in separate locations - as if to mimic the horrific attack that targeted several different areas in the French capital in November last year, killing 137 people.
It involves the city's police force, working with other agencies including Merseyside Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service and counter-terrorism officers to examine and evaluate the response to a major attack.
The exercise followed similar simulations to have taken place in London, Glasgow and Essex in recent months.
Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe said: "This exercise is part of a national programme that has been planned extensively for five months.
"We have worked closely with the Trafford centre and other emergency services to test our response to a major terrorist incident in a public place, which for part of this exercise is a shopping centre.
"Residents in the area may hear loud noises and see emergency services activity around the Trafford Centre during the exercise and I can reassure people that there is no cause for concern.
"However, I would still urge people to contact police if they do have any concerns or want to report anything and are not sure if it is linked to the exercise.
"Our priority is to stop terrorists from planning and orchestrating attacks and with exercises like this, we can put our response to the test in a safe environment, so we are fully prepared for a time when it may be critical.
"I want to make it clear that this is not linked to any specific terror threat or attack, but is an opportunity for us to make sure we are in the best position possible, should a terrorist attack happen in the North West.
"This exercise has allowed us to build and strengthen our relationship with intu Trafford Centre and I would like to thank them for allowing all the participants to use their centre.
Their support in the planning of this exercise demonstrates their commitment to test their response to a major incident and protect their staff and customers."
Richard Paxton, General Manager of The Trafford Centre. said: "The police and emergency services do an extremely important job keeping the public safe. This training, planning and preparation to deal with all eventualities is essential and we had no hesitation allowing them to use our facilities for their exercise while the centre was closed."