Counter terrorism exercise concludes

A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester, where police have joined forces with other agencies during a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident

A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester, where police have joined forces with other agencies during a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident

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One of the largest and most ambitious counter terrorism training exercises ever undertaken in the country has concluded in the North West overnight.

Thousands of people from both regional and national agencies took part in the simulated terrorist attack across three days designed to test the response to scenarios based on recent events. The multi-agency exercise included three scenarios based on the Kenyan Westgate Shopping Centre attack in 2013, followed by a manhunt as occurred in Paris last year and it concluded with a Bataclan-style siege with added complexity as it took place across two locations.

The national threat level is at severe which means an attack is highly likely and agencies regularly test their response shaped by latest information and contemporary events.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “This has been a huge undertaking involving thousands of people over three days and has put all agencies under pressure to test our responses.

“Recent events in Paris, Brussels and around the world have shown us that the response from agencies has to be robust if we are to save lives. I want to ensure we are ready to protect the people of Greater Manchester and the UK if the unthinkable was to happen.

“Exercises have to be developed to really put people from all agencies under pressure and with the scenarios this week they have been put under intense pressure. We want to be able to make mistakes now in safe environment so that we can get it right when the call comes.

“We have undertaken a swift debrief of the exercise with those who helped to develop it. There are many lessons we can learn that will improve the national response to a potential terrorist attack and help to protect people.

“One learning point has been that future exercises need to take more cognisance of cultural and religious sensitivities at the planning stages and community groups should be brought in to advise. We have raised this with the directors of the exercise. The religious phrase that was used and caused offence was not scripted and did not involve any police officer or GMP employee.

“The three days have been really challenging for all agencies that took part and things have gone well but have also shown where improvements can be made. Testing ourselves in controlled circumstances means we can all be ready if we have to face a terrorist attack.

“I want to thank all the GMP employees, individuals from all agencies who took part, and the people of Greater Manchester. It is important that we all remain vigilant as we are in a high state of alert but also that we stand together to combat terrorism both in Greater Manchester and the UK.”