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Trafford Centre Terror Training Exercise Turns To Embarrassment For Police After Religious Chants By 'Suicide Bomber'

Around 800 people were involved in the role-play exercise.

10/05/2016 10:40 | Updated 10 May 2016

Warning: graphic content

Police have been forced to apologise after a man pretending to be a suicide bomber repeatedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" during a terror training exercise at Manchester's Trafford Centre.

Around 800 people were involved in the role-play exercise which started at midnight at the entrance to a food court when the man dressed all in black walked in and shouted "Allahu Akbar" [God is great] at the crowd.

Armed officers were drilling their training techniques and counter-terror tactics to test their response to a Paris or Brussels-type attack on civilians during the exercise at the huge Intu complex on the outskirts of Manchester.

But after video of the training exercise was released to the media, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was asked to explain why the 'suicide bomber' was stereotyped as a Muslim extremist.

Senior officers from GMP were quick to respond, attempting to shutdown the controversy with a full apology:

In a statement, GMP Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said it was "unacceptable" to use the "religious phrase" before the mock bombing:

Shewan claimed the exercise was "based on a suicide attack by an extremist Daesh-style organisation" and that the scenario writers centred the "circumstances around previous similar attacks of this nature...to make the situation as real life as possible".

But, Shewan added that: "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 with Islam."

The quick and fulsome apology won praise, although the police faced calls for an investigation into the chants...

And police also faced claims they were warned of the chants in the video well before it went viral:

Police stressed there is no specific threat to the shopping centre and the exercise had been planned since last December, but it has given them and businesses the opportunity to test their emergency terror response.

Manchester’s Mayor and Police & Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said it was "frustrating the operation has been marred by the ill-judged, unnecessary and unacceptable decision by organisers to have those playing the parts of terrorists to shout 'Allahu Akbar' before setting off their fake bombs.

"It didn’t add anything to the event, but has the potential to undermine the great community relations we have in Greater Manchester."

Moments after an explosion rocked the food hall, volunteers - wearing ear defenders and safety glasses - dropped to the floor.

Many were made up to look as if they had horrific injuries and others screamed out as if in pain.

Smoke filled the entrance to the food court and some of the volunteers ran from restaurants, as if they were trying to dash to safety.

Story continues below...

  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Sean Hansford / Manchester Eveni/PA Wire
    People playing the role of injured shoppers react 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.
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)
  • Pool via Getty Images
    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Emergency forces and shoppers take place in a simulated terror attack at the Trafford Centre on 10 May, 2016 in Manchetser, England. Police in Greater Manchester have joined forces with other agencies to carry out a simulated terror attack to test the emergency response to a major incident. (Photo by Sean Hansford/MEN - Pool / Getty Images)

The current UK terror threat level is described as severe, meaning an attack is highly likely, according to the security services.

The exercise, codenamed Exercise Winchester Accord, is the fourth major exercise in months, coming after previous ones in London, Glasgow and Essex.

Greater Manchester Police, the North West Counter Terrorism Unit and the North West Ambulance Service were all being tested as part of the exercise, with no personnel being told precisely how the "attack" would unfold.

The Manchester Evening News understands the SAS was also involved in the operation.

The sound of gunfire could be heard ringing out through the food court as the volunteers screamed for help.

A mock masked gunman appeared at the foot of the steps near the entrance to The Orient, firing a number of shots.

Earlier, the volunteers had gone through a safety briefing and had been reassured that no live rounds would be used.

After observing the initial "attack", members of the press were asked to move outside to witness the arrival of armed police.

Two officers - carrying what appeared to be rifles - moved cautiously towards the entrance, pointing their weapons in front of them.

One covered the other as the pair went inside the food court, ignoring the "injured" as they passed them.

The latest drill took place while the shopping centre was closed to the public between midnight and 6am.

It will continue in locations in the North West, including Red Bank Community Home, a disused young offenders' centre in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside.

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