Will hostages be less important for terrorists but also for security forces?

E. g. Met Police will increase its armed presence and there is an another development as French Colonel Hubert Bonneau, head of the elite GIGN police, said there is a new type of terrorist threat meant there are no classic hostage situations such as in the past and hostages are just a buffer to slow the progress of security forces. So basically are we moving towards a new phase when we will see more armed security personnel on the streets ready to act quickly due the fact that hostages will be not so important? Read few comments.

Edwin BakkerProfessor, Director Centre for Terrorism & Counter Terrorism, Leiden University

I am afraid the answer to your question is ‘yes’. Police officers not only need (to be trained in using) new weapons, but also the way in which they will approach possible hostage takings or shootings may change (less time to assess the situation. Better safe than sorry, shoot first, than ask). This will not hold for all police officers, but it requires special units moving around big cities … an expensive task .. not very productive if nothing happens. The question is, what cities (or other locations) need to take these measures? London and Paris make sense. Same holds for Brussels. Perhaps Vienna and The Hague or Geneva with a lot of international institutions do need to take the same measures. But what about Barcelona, Budapest or Bratislava … or smaller towns … difficult to tell. I guess the costs involved will partly determine such decisions, hopefully next to proper threat assessments.

Sam MullinsProfessor of Counterterrorism, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

This shift towards increasing lethality of terrorist incidents has been taking place for some time now. In the ’70s Brian Jenkins observed that ‘terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead’. However it’s become increasingly clear since the 1990s that they now want both. In the context of armed assaults, what tends to happen is most of the killing takes place within the first 30 minutes or so of the attack. Hostages are then sometimes used to prolong the incident and gain further publicity, rather than as bargaining chips to be kept alive. The Mumbai attacks in 2008 are a clear example of this. So what we saw in Paris is not new – rather it is part of a continuing trend. But the implications for counter-terrorism are quite clear – there is absolutely a need to respond to such incidents as swiftly as possible. Because of that, we are indeed likely to see more armed security personnel being deployed on the streets and at high profile events. In addition, it is important that security forces review their structure, inter-agency coordination mechanisms and rapid response capabilities. Hiring and deploying more armed personnel is certainly appropriate in some cases, but it is just as, if not even more important, to ensure that all relevant security and emergency response agencies are properly trained and have practiced together in realistic scenarios.

David Lowe, Principal Lecturer, Law School, Liverpool John Moores University

There are two issues underpinning the UK’s metropolitan Police in recruiting an extra 600 armed officers. One is to ensure that as London is clearly a major target for a terrorist attack it has to ensure that it is in a position of have the capability to deal with small arms attacks like that seen in Paris 2015 and in Susse in Tunisia. Another reason is that as most UK police officers are unarmed (approximately 96%) the unlike their European counterparts, where most officers are routinely armed, the UK has ensure that more of their officers are trained in the use of firearms and subsequently are capable of responding to a terrorist attack. As we saw I the Paris attacks groups like IS are not one for protracted hostage negotiations, a has been observed, they use this as a stalling tactic while they continue with their killing spree. The UK police, like their colleagues in other states, have been anticipating small arms attacks by terrorist, even since the Mumbai attack. Training in practice situations has been aimed at changing the position of the police from attending to injured citizens during an attack to keep moving forward towards the terrorists until the threat the terrorist pose has been eliminated before tending to the wounded. This mays seem hard hearted but the duty of the police will be to degrade and eliminate the greatest threat and that will be in dealing with terrorists, especially those from groups who will not negotiate and who have no regard for human life.

Adrian GuelkeProfessor, Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, Queen’s University of Belfast

I don’t know whether this is simply an extrapolation from Paris or has been prompted by specific, fresh intelligence info. I suspect it is based more on an examination of vulnerabilities after Paris than on any certainty on what ISIS might do in response to the ramping up of bombing on the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq. Before Paris, the assumption was that ISIS did not share al Qaeda’s commitment to the strategy of attacking the far enemy. That is why in the initial hours of the Paris attacks, CIA sources were telling the American media that they thought al Qaeda rather than ISIS was the likely perpetrator. But clearly ISIS is willing to attack Western capitals directly with much the same MO as al Qaeda of mass casualty attacks and suicide missions, hence the security concerns.

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One Response

  1. Nice combination.

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