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Lawyers make bid to question MI5 in Arena inquiry

An inquiry into the Manchester Arena terrorist attack has heard how the security services made ‘grave breaches of their duty’ in failing to stop Salman Abedi and should face questions from the bereaved families.

The 22-year-old killed 22 people when he detonated a device on 22 May 2017 at an Ariana Grande concert.

The inquiry has previously been told that intelligence services were aware of Abedi as far back as 2010 and MI5 has already admitted there were missed opportunities to investigate him more closely in the months before the bombing.

Now, 14 witnesses are due to appear at closed Manchester Arena Inquiry hearings about MI5 and counter terrorism police's conduct. But lawyers for the bereaved families want the chance to question the witnesses. The sessions will not be held in public in the interests of protecting national security.

John Cooper QC, who represents 11 of the families, said it would be unfair if lawyers for MI5 and counter terrorism police were allowed to be at the closed hearings but lawyers for the bereaved families were not. He added that if the families and their lawyers were prevented from attending the hearings, a team of ‘special advocates’ should be appointed to represent them.

Cathryn McGahey QC, who represents the Home Office and MI5, said the government was opposed to such access because the risk of ‘inadvertent disclosure’ was ‘simply too great’.

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