Tuesday 20 August 2019

Troops carry out terror drills in shopping centres and key transport hub

Irish troops are planning their response to terror attacks. Stock picture
Irish troops are planning their response to terror attacks. Stock picture
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Troops have carried out military manoeuvres at shopping centres and a key transport hub to counter potential attacks by terrorists.

Members of the Defence Forces prepared and planned how to combat an attack through reconnaissance at the targeted buildings. The intelligence gathered was then used for a table-top exercise in countering the threat through low-tech and high-tech command and communications scenarios.

The results of the latest manoeuvres formed part of a training course in preparing commanders to counter marauding terrorist attacks (C-MTA) at the ordnance school in the Defence Forces' training centre at the Curragh.

The week-long course is being attended by representatives from 15 countries, including Ireland, and is the third organised by the Defence Forces. The first was held in November 2015, days after the terror attacks claimed by Isil in Paris.

The ordnance school has widespread experience in how to deal with improvised explosive devices as a result of fall-out from the Troubles in Northern Ireland and Ireland's involvement in peacekeeping operations with the United Nations overseas.

It has already held several prototype courses to share its expertise in this area with civilian and military personnel from the UN, EU and Nato member states.

This week's course is seen as a "natural progression" from earlier efforts and has been financed by Luxembourg through the Nato/Partnership for Peace voluntary national contribution fund. Apart from military and police agencies, participants also include emergency services, private sector security companies and potential commercial targets.

Lieut Col Ray Lane, from the ordnance school, said yesterday that the motto of the course was that co-operation and co-ordination saved lives. He said the aim was to make people more aware of their surroundings and, without creating an environment of fear, to help them observe tell-tale signs that could lead to preventative action.

The course involved a study of 17 terrorist strikes over the past decade and an examination of post-attack analyses, which concluded that all of them could have been prevented.

"We don't want to instil the fear of God into people, but if they become more aware of what they see around them, this could help the preservation of life," Col Lane said.

The commanders are being trained to respond to marauding terror attacks under complex conditions when they face a blizzard of information and need to control a wide range of personnel to end an incident with minimal casualties.

Course organisers teamed up with British company Airbox, whose Mosaic system was used for a high-tech exercise in which the students using cutting edge operational tools worked from an operational picture that pinpointed the locations of the main players, such as the terrorists, the security forces and members of staff and public, including possible hostages.

All information about the location of the incident is gleaned from maps and drones and fed into an app, which can be picked up by police and military at the scene on their mobile phones. The full "real time" picture is studied by the commander and key advisers before making a decision on how to operate on the ground. The participants also heard from academics and other experts on their analysis of recent events.

It was pointed out that the terrorists involved in attacks in Europe had minimal, if any, military training and were lightly armed or else used available resources such as vehicles and knifes.

Irish Independent

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