Thursday, 25 May 2017

Theresa May has serious questions to answer on Manchester and Libya

I'm sure most of us are still coming to terms with the horrific bomb attack on Monday night on a concert in Manchester attended by thousands of young people. Quite a few people i've spoken to since have been scratching their heads wondering why somebody would target an event where many of those in attendance werent even adults. Well now we have learned of the bomber's links to ISIS it seems the actions of Salman Abedi makes sense (if murdering dozens of people can ever make sense). The medieval homicides of ISIS specialise in so called 'soft targets' and in recent years weddings, funerals and youth rallies have all been ripped apart by blasts from suicide bombers operating on behalf of this most beastly organisation. Course - and as i pointed out here after the Westminster bridge attack  - we have messrs George Bush and Tony Blair to thank in large part for the emergence of ISIS.

But amid the understandable and widespread horror generated by Monday's appalling events what mustn't be overlooked is that the attack also represented a massive failure of intelligence on the part of the british security services and Theresa May's government. Theresa May might be revelling in her seeming new role as an army general, putting thousands of troops on the UK's streets at the stroke of a pen.But her government and the UK's intelligence services have serious questions to answer with regards to the awful events of monday night.

In the last 24 hours we've learned that the suicide bomber Salman Abedi was known to the intelligence services to be an ISIS supporter - he even flew an ISIS flag outside his home. And we've also learned that numerous sources within the local muslim community had passed on concerns to the authorities about Abedi's interest in hardline jihadist ideology - in one example revealed on Newsnight last night a community worker passed on information that Abedi had expressed interest in being a suicide bomber.

Now if such a person undertook a 3 week trip to a country like libya (ISIS controlled one of its major cities as recently as december) you would think this would have warranted some scruitiny by the security services and the UK home office. A known ISIS sympathiser goes to a country whch has been a hotbed of ISIS activity to visit a family which includes a brother who is a member of ISIS. All of this would have sent some alarm bells ringing in MI6 MI5 and at the home office surely? Not a bit of it. Abedi returns to the UK and is neither interviewed at the airport upon his return nor was he monitored on his return to his home in Manchester.

The fact of the matter is if Abedi had been given the scrutiny he certainly merited those people he murdered on monday night would almost certainly still be alive. Such criminal negligence on the part of the May Government and the UK's security services cannot be allowed to go unchallenged, and while it's understandable such questions wouldnt have been asked in the immediate aftermath of monday's atrocity it's vital that May is pressed on this matter in what remains of the UK's general election campaign. Remember on such matters the buck stops with her. As British PM she sees all the intelligence, she knows who's on the 'watched list' and as PM she is ultimately accountable for the actions of the security services.

Speaking of Libya something occured in a british court a couple of weeks ago that in its own way is probably as baffling as the security service's failure to monitor Abedi.Two weeks ago the prosecution of the principal suspect in the 1984 killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher - Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk - was dropped 'on grounds of national security'. In layman's terms what happened was the British government refused to release the evidence it held on Mabrouk so forcing the collapse of the case against him.This was an absolutely astonishing development and it reminded me of the case of the irish republican informer Denis Donaldson a decade ago. Charges against Donaldson you may remember were dropped when it was revealed he had been spying on irish republicans for the british security services for decades. You dont have to be einstein then to work out why the UK government might want to protect Mabrouk ie was it protecting an asset? It's certainly all very odd.

But what we do know for sure is that in the space of two weeks Theresa May's government has intervened to protect the chief suspect in an infamous and unsolved killing and overseen one of the most massive failures of intelligence of recent times - a failure which cost 22 lives. Let's hope she is made to answer for such deleterious actions - and her pandering to the kipper vote over brexit - on June 8th.

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