A mock suicide bomber acted out an explosion at Manchester’s Trafford Centre overnight as hundreds of people ran screaming and hid in shops and restaurants.
Around 800 people were involved in the exercise, which started at midnight, when a man dressed in black walked in and shouted at the crowd.
Moments later an explosion rocked the food hall and volunteers, wearing ear defenders and safety glasses, dropped to the floor.
Many wore make-up to simulate serious injuries and others screamed out for help in The Orient food court as the sound of gunfire rang out.
Armed officers then moved in, practicing tactics drawn up in the event of a Paris or Brussels-style attack.
Police stressed that there was no specific threat to the Trafford Centre, which is the second-largest in the UK.
Greater Manchester Police, the North West Counter Terrorism Unit and the North West Ambulance Service were all being tested, with no personnel being told precisely how the “attack” would unfold.
The Manchester Evening News reported that the SAS was also involved in the operation, which took place while the shopping centre was closed between midnight and 6am.
Greater Manchester Police had urged the public not to be alarmed by loud noises, while the Trafford Centre’s managers praised the emergency services’ “great work”.
Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe said agencies were testing their response to a “major terrorist incident in a public place”.
The Police have been forced to apologise for making the fake suicide bomber shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ in the drill
Greater Manchester Police said it was unacceptable to use a phrase ‘which so vocally linked the exercise with Islam’ after Community groups and activists condemned the use of “stereotypes” for the exercise, raising concerns it would fuel anti-Muslim prejudice.
Manchester University Diversity Officer Ilyas Nagdee posted to twitter saying: ‘Stupid decision by @gmpolice to decide attackers should be seen as Muslim. Maybe that’s why Islamophobias gone up 300% in the UK.’