Major counter terrorism training exercise takes place at English shopping centre

Hundreds of volunteers played the role of shoppers during the training event at Manchester's Trafford centre

terrorism, exercise, shopping centre, police, officials, trafford, manchester

A person playing the role of suicide bomber detonates an explosive during an exercise at the Intu Trafford Centre in Trafford, Manchester. Image: Sean Hansford / Manchester Eveni / PA Wire/Press Association Images

A dramatic terror training exercise has been taking place in Manchester with a simulated attack carried out at the city's Trafford shopping centre.

The exercise began at midnight when a man playing the part of a suicide bomber entered the crowded centre before pretending to detonate a bomb.

Hundreds of volunteers played the role of shoppers, screaming in panic and fleeing while others collapsed on the ground covered in fake blood.

The sound of gunfire was also heard rattling around the shops.

Emergency services including counter-terrorism police, fire and ambulance crews - who had not been told the precise nature of the exercise - rushed to the scene as if they were dealing with a real event.

Volunteers were assured no live rounds would be used and within minutes groups of armed police arrived and entered the centre while stepping over 'injured' members of the public.

The exercise has been designed to appear as real as possible to allow officials to measure the response of emergency services in the event of a real terrorist attack in the UK.

The Trafford Centre, which is the second largest shopping centre in the UK and attracts some 35 million visitors every year, will be open for business as usual this morning.

Similar exercises are expected to continue at undisclosed locations throughout the day.