Anti-terror collaboration

Published: 13 November, 2013 06:53 IST | Hemal Ashar |

As the black anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks looms, the spotlight is on coming together to fight terror. A recent exercise saw 22 Indian police officials in the US, training in anti-terrorist operations

With just a few days to go before Mumbai marks another grim anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, unfortunately the scale of the attack, its audacity and the eyeballs it managed to capture as terrorists held the city to ransom, has made it a kind of grisly benchmark for terror attacks all over the world. Global reports related to terrorism often cite instances of terror plots being foiled and say, ‘terrorists were plotting a Mumbai-style attack…’ with reference to 26/11.

ACTION STATIONS: A Force One commando gets into action during an anti-terror drill, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station in the city on a terrorism drill. The station was the scene of carnage during 26/11

When talking about ‘copycat’ attacks though one can see that the Mumbai attacks itself may have been inspired in some ways by the ‘Coastal Road Massacre’ in Israel, The Coastal Road massacre of 1978 was an attack involving the hijacking of a bus on Israel’s Coastal Highway in which 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed, and 71 were wounded. The attack was planned by Abu Jihad and carried out by the PLO faction Fatah.

ANGER ON THE STREETS: Palestinian protesters lob stones during clashes with Israeli soldiers close to the Israeli Ofer military prison, near the West Bank village of Betunia, last week. The clashes erupted a day after Israeli forces reportedly killed a Palestinian near Jerusalem. Pic/AFP

The plan was to seize a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv and take tourists and foreign ambassadors hostage in order to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. In this massacre too, the attackers came by water like they did in Mumbai and in Israel’s case, landed on a beach. They had planned to infiltrate a luxury hotel, but that did not work out. They hijacked a bus but before that, were shooting people out of a car, with something similar happening in Mumbai too. In Mumbai they created murder and mayhem at two Five-Star hotels as the world too well knows.

LINEUP: (from r) Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, Liban Abdulle Omar, Adan Mohamed Ibrahim and Hussein Mustafa Hassan, the four men charged in connection with the Westgate mall massacre in September, in which at least 67 people were killed, appear at a Kenyan court prior to a hearing in Nairobi. Pic/AFP

More recently, the terror attack at Nairobi’s Westgate mall too had experts saying it had some parallels to Mumbai. All these examples show that if terror plots are global and interlinked, feeding off each other, then, anti-terror operations too need to be global. As terror goes global, so does the fight against it.

BLOOD ON THE WATER: MV Kuber, the fishing trawler which had been used by the 26/11 terrorists

All of last month, 22 Indian tactical police officers were in theUnited States, training in anti-terrorism operations. A US Embassy security officer stated at the recent graduation of these 22 Indians as the US course on terrorism closed on November 1, “The US and India are close partners in the fight against terrorism.”

As part of a partnership with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, the US Department of State and U.S. Embassy New Delhi sponsored a five-week crisis response course. The session was conducted by instructors from the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program in Virginia.

Said a US Embassy spokesperson, “the course lasted five weeks starting at the end of September and ending on November 1, with 2 Indian police personnel involved. There were eight American instructors.”

The spokesperson added that, “The ATA program provides training and related assistance to law enforcement and security services worldwide. ATA is enhancing antiterrorism skills by providing training to deter and counter the threats of terrorism in any environment.”

When asked about the profile of the eight instructors, the spokesperson added that the instructors were retired army and police officials with more than two decades of, ‘Crisis Response Team’ (CRT) field experience. In India, the ‘CRT’ is known as Quick Response Team.

Asked if the course was designed specifically to combat terror by Al-Qaeda linked groups or even attacks by Naxalites which have been escalating and pose a significant threat to India now, the spokesperson preferred to classify these broadly saying that it “provides the basic skill set to respond to any terror attack.”

In the West especially one has seen what experts term as ‘lone wolf attacks’ one or two individuals acting alone, opening fire on civilians. This course provided, the Embassy spokesperson said, “training to interdict single or multiple terrorists, though it did not touch upon biological terrorism.”

In the end, the spokesperson summed up, “participants were able to use the basic skills necessary to resolve high-risk terrorist confrontations using a variety of options employing the minimum amount of force necessary to protect human life.” He added, “Half of the training consisted of Close Quarters Battle techniques and the second largest piece of the training dealt with live-fire using both handguns and shoulder weapons.” Since 85 per cent of the course was conducted in an outdoor setting, it was very physically demanding.  

Some course topics
>> Pistol and carbine basic and advance course of fire
>> Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
>> Booby Traps
>> Weapon Retention Skills
>> Defensive Devices
>> Diversionary Tactics
>> Tactical planning and options
>>Immediate, deliberate and direct to threat assaults, vehicle assaults and high-risk raids. 

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