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‘Break momentum’ of terror attacks, ex PM May told police

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has told the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack that Theresa May told police and MI5 to ‘break the momentum’ of terror attacks in Britain following the bombing.

Basu, who is now the head of UK counter-terrorism policing but was the senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism at the time, recalled the then Prime Minister’s direction for the inquiry, which is looking into the May 2017 incident which killed 22 victims.

The Manchester Arena attack was the second terror attack to strike Britain in 2017 and was followed by two other fatal attacks within a month - including at London Bridge.

In his evidence Basu said that a ‘surge of activity’ was triggered as police attempted to crack down on terrorist activity, with assets focused on pursuing known threats, which included 3,000 MI5 subjects of interest and 600 live operations. It also included increased efforts to ‘further disrupt and destabilise the activities of members of proscribed terrorist organisations, particularly al-Muhajiroun’.

Al-Muhajiroun was linked to Khuram Butt, the leader of the 2017 London Bridge attack; Khalid Masood, the Westminster attacker; and numerous other terrorists and plotters in Britain.

Salman Abedi, the Manchester Arena bomber, was not associated with the group but had links to foreign fighters and terrorist prisoners, and had voiced support for Isis before the attack.

Basu also gave evidence on the response by counter-terrorism police and senior officers on the night of the Manchester attack, of whom he said ‘did an exceptional job in horrific circumstances’.

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