- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

MANCHESTER, England — A fake bomb left behind during a security exercise led police to evacuate Manchester United’s stadium on Sunday, disrupting the final day of the English Premier League season and bringing embarrassment to the team.

Police initially described the device as “incredibly lifelike” as United’s planned match with Bournemouth was canceled and a controlled explosion was carried out.

Hours later, bomb technicians reported it was a fake, and a later statement by police said the device had been inadvertently left in a toilet during an earlier training exercise.

The series of events happened amid tightened security at Premier League stadiums following last year’s attacks in Paris that targeted the Stade de France as well as cafes, bars and a concert hall. It also followed the British government’s announcement on Wednesday that it was raising the nation’s threat level due to intelligence indicating the “strong possibility” of attacks in Britain by factions of the outlawed Irish Republican Army.

The Premier League has rescheduled the match for Tuesday.

“It is outrageous this situation arose and a full inquiry is required to urgently find out how this happened, why it happened and who will be held accountable,” said Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester’s mayor as well as the district’s police and crime commissioner.

Sunday’s scare was set off after Manchester United staff found a suspicious device in a toilet in the northwest corner of the stands, police said. About half an hour before the scheduled kickoff, fans were escorted out by security personnel and a sweep of the 75,635-seat venue was carried out.

Players from both teams were taken off the pitch during the warm-up and kept in the changing rooms.

“We have since found out that the item was a training device which had accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise involving explosive search dogs,” John O’Hare, assistant chief constable from Greater Manchester Police.

United was vying with Manchester City to finish in fourth place in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League. City drew 1-1 at Swansea, effectively ending United’s top-four chances.

The security scare rekindled memories of April 1997, when the dominant Provisional faction of the IRA telephoned a bomb warning to force the evacuation of the Grand National horse race in Liverpool.

The Provisional IRA has observed a cease-fire since July 1997 and renounced violence in 2005, but several rival factions continue to plot attacks in the British territory of Northern Ireland.


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