Terrorist Takeovers A growing threat
History • There have been a couple of well-known similar incidents in Russia this decade: • Moscow Movie Theater • Beslan
Overview • The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India have reinforced that a small determined terrorist team can cause widespread killings/panic in a short amount of time. • Typical law enforcement tactics such as Active Shooter may be attempted instead of staying back and securing a perimeter
Will to Win • What is important is mindset. Without it, you cannot do much good. • Officers have training pertaining to skills (accuracy, movement, entries, etc..) but a will to win has to be developed.
Moscow Theater Takeover • October 2002 • Up to 50 Chechen rebels took about 600 people hostage in a movie theater • 3 day standoff • Soft Target • Took over and planted bombs in strategic locations
Moscow • Negotiations began early • Some hostages released Friday Morning (Total of 58 were released). Would not release children older than 12 years old as teenagers are not considered children. • Allowed food and medicine to be brought in • Friday night made promise to start shooting hostages
Moscow • Terrorist started by killing two males • Explosions and gunfire heard afterwards • Elite officers stormed the building • An unknown type of gas was used, killing hostages.
MOSCOW THEATRE SIEGE On Wednesday, October 23, 2002, 40 Chechen terrorists seized a crowded Moscow theatre, taking over 700 hostages and demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechenya. After a siege of two and a half days, the Russian government raided the building with the assistance of knockout gas. All of the terrorists were killed, along with about 120 of the hostages.
Beslan • September 1, 2004 • Beginning of school year • 1100 hostages • 3 day period • 334 hostages killed, 186 children
Why Beslan? An as yet unresolved question is why the hostage-takers targeted North Ossetia and Beslan in particular. A number of theories have been advanced: • Practicality: It may have simply been that the attackers were only able to get as far as Beslan and were unable to get into Russia proper. • Opportunism: The school in Beslan undertook major building work during the summer break. It has been reported that a Chechen company was involved, which may have given the attackers the chance to stockpile weapons (if this did happen) in the school well in advance of the siege. • Politics: The Ossetians are a mainly Christian people who have a history of conflict with their Muslim neighbours. The attackers may have hoped to inflame inter-communal tension and goad the Ossetians into taking revenge on innocent Ingush and Chechens, thereby kick-starting a cycle of revenge and blood feuds. This would potentially plunge the North Caucasus into an all-out inter-ethnic war. Demands of the hostage-takers • The hostage-takers in Beslan are reported to have at first made the following demands: • Immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. • Presence of the following people in the school: • Aleksander Dzasokhov, president of North Ossetia, • Murat Ziazikov, president of nearby Ingushetia, • Alu Alkhanov, president of nearby Chechnya, • Leonid Roshal, director of the emergency surgery department of the Pediatrics Institute.
Analysis: In Review – New facts come to light… (One year later) Many new and additional facts have come to light since this incident was originally reported upon in September 2004. The Center for Tactical Counterterrorism in New York has conducted a through critique of this incident and made note of the following additional observations: Careful Planning Allowed Terrorists To Control 1,000 Hostages and Fight Security Forces for 10 Hours resulting in 335 People Killed: 156 Children, 727 Wounded, 260 Remain Missing. • 32 heavily armed and masked Chechen terrorists belonging to Shamil Basayev’s Second Group of Salakhin Riyadus Shakhidi seized the school on the first day of the Russian school year • Attack also bankrolled by Abu Omar al-Saif, top al Qaeda financier in Chechnya • 1,191 students, teachers and parents held in the school gymnasium. 50 children escaped by hiding in a boiler room in the initial confusion • The school siege was well planned. Terrorists cached explosives, weapons, and food (canned goods and chocolate) in July when school was going through renovations. • Terrorists released 26 during day 2 of the siege. Many of those were infants born in 2002 or after • Terrorists used Arab code names and remained in contact with outside support via cell phones • Hostages said that the terrorists wore NATO type camouflage, had modern assault rifles, communications equipment and medical kits • Terrorists threatened to kill 50 children for each gunmen killed and 20 for each gunmen wounded. • Terrorists demanded Russian withdrawal from Chechnya and the release of 30 associates arrested during attempted uprising in Ingushetia in June 2004 that killed 90 people
Analysis: In Review – New facts come to light… (Continued…) Tactics: • Several of the terrorists' bodies have now been identified as the "construction workers" who remodeled the school. The same tactic was used in the killing of Chechen President Ahmad Kadyrov in May 2004. (Note that on 9 September, police in the Russian city of St Petersburg have found explosives, detonators and a gun in a cinema closed for repairs—possibly a related incident) • According to hostages, within the first minutes of the siege, the terrorists made male hostages rip up the floor, from which they extracted their contraband. • They quickly wired explosives in the gym and established an explosive ring around the school • Windows in the gym were smashed and children were forced to stand in front of open windows as human shields to prevent police from firing into the building. • Terrorists brought dogs with them as early warning for CS (Security forces used CS in 2002 theater siege) as well as gas masks, and positioned a sniper on the upper floors of the building. Characteristics of the Terror Cell: • Authorities have reported that the terror cell consists of Chechens, and Ingush (who are Muslim) Russians, Georgians (who are Christian) and 9 Arabs. Russian security officials have since identified 10 of the Beslan school hostage-takers, confirming that six of them came from Chechnya. • 4 women were seen wearing suicide bomb belts. • Some of the terrorists were arrested prior and were supposed to be doing time in jail. Authorities are investigating why they were released. One terrorist was caught alive, 24 old, Nur-Pashi Kulaev. Kulaev and his brother, 31-year old Han-Pashi Kulaev (killed september 3rd), were Basayev's personal bodyguards. • There are reports stating that the terrorists quarreled - many were unhappy with the fact that the hostages were children. According to Kulaev, Polkovnik personally shot one of the terrorists and even blew up the two female suicide bombers (via a remote) to show that he meant business.
Analysis: In Review – New facts come to light… (Continued…) Local Law Enforcement Response: Assault On School • According to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the plan was to negotiate, not to storm the buildings. • A gun battle erupted at 1 p.m. local time when authorities attempted to retrieve the bodies of those killed during the initial seizure. • The terrorists opened fire with RPG’s and small arms fire. • FSB then started its assault. Some 30 women and children broke out of the building under terrorist fire. • There are reports that it was around this time that the terrorists broke off into 3 groups: one to stay and fight, another to escape, and the third to mix in with the hostages. • The group that stayed set off the explosives in the gymnasium, reportedly killing hundreds of hostages and partially collapsing the roof • Terrorists were successful in killing many of the fleeing hostages, many of the children were shot in the back as they ran out of the building. • 13 terrorists escaped outside the school perimeter and found refuge in a nearby house. Authorities later reported that this group had been dealt with. • Authorities are looking at possible aid given by some North Ossetia police officers. • According to Russian intelligence, this terrorist act was planned from abroad - Basayev received 2 million dollars and equipment to carry out the attack from al Saif.
Analysis: In Review – New facts come to light… (Continued…) Implications for our Schools in the United States: • This attack reinforces the vulnerability of soft targets, especially schools. • Schools have improved security in the wake of high school shootings. • Most school districts have mandated all schools implement emergency response plans, to address terrorist threats. Many of these plans advise schools to take specific actions depending on the level of DHS warning then in effect. • Most plans require schools to interact with local law enforcement and emergency service providers. • Once again the involvement of Chechen women in the attacks, this time in the presence of children Illustrates a growing trend that terrorists no longer negotiate on specific demands but now kill hostages as the objective. In this case, the terrorists adjusted their tactics after the Moscow Theater siege, the authorities did not. • Construction projects are key for several reasons: (1) they are a source of equipment, (2) in built up areas they often provide access to underground systems, (3) some sites have explosives handy, (4) unattended vehicles, or groups of people are not suspicious at odd hours. • Authorities must consider that a jihadist’s best-case scenario is their own death.
Analysis: Russia's Caucasus Quagmire By Dr Jonathan Eyal Military analyst Nothing whatsoever can explain or justify the unspeakable cruelty of the terrorists, who remain solely responsible for the wholesale massacre of children in the school in Beslan. Nevertheless, some responsibility for the calamitous outcome also belongs to Russia's special military units which, yet again, bungled a rescue operation and exacerbated the tragedy. The Russian Spetsnaz, or special forces, have had a glorious reputation for decades. Indeed, as the Soviet Union collapsed, they were the only troops of an otherwise despised and ridiculed Russian military still considered fashionable. Every street market in Russia sells some items of their uniform or insignia, and most young Russian men - even those who will do everything to escape military service - still wear them eagerly. The Alpha hostage rescue unit, directly subordinated to Russia's FSB security service, is considered an elite within the elite - the ultimate in military ruthlessness and precision. Yet, as the horror of the Beslan school indicates, much of this reputation has been put into question. The Russian military's first failure during this school hostage crisis was in the overall strategy. As any anti-terrorism expert knows, not all such hostage crises are the same. If the number of hostages is relatively small, the situation can be fairly stable, and a government has some time to negotiate with the terrorists, while preparing its response. But if the number of hostages is large - and it was huge in the Beslan school - the situation is inherently unstable from the start, and violence can erupt at any moment. The reason for this is that the terrorists themselves are unsure of their situation, and the chances are high that some of the hostages would rebel, thereby starting the shoot-out everyone is seeking to avoid. Either way, it should have been clear from the start that, even if the Russian government ruled out a military assault on the school - as President Vladimir Putin now claims - preparations to storm the building at a moment's notice should have been ready. Yet nothing of the kind appears to have been planned: when the explosions and shooting started, it caught the Russian military commanders completely by surprise. The result was no less than 10 hours of shooting - just about the surest way of guaranteeing heavy casualties. Ultimately, the Russian troops did what they know best: shoot in all directions with massive firepower, rather than execute the surgical strike required in such circumstances.
Beslan • Terrorist wore military camouflage and black balaclavas • Some had explosive belts • Witnesses claim there were two groups • Initial shootout killed 8 people • Herded group into gymnasium • Cell Phones confiscated
Beslan • Hostages were commanded to speak in Russian when spoken to • One male started talking in native language to calm hostages and was shot dead immediately. • Another refused to kneel and was shot dead also.
Bombs • Terrorist standing on “Dead Man Switch”
Beslan • Exerted dominance from the beginning • No hesitation to kill • Group of adults(15-20) identified as possible problems taken to separate room, when a large blast was heard • Witness claims that a female terrorist had a belt bomb that went off, killing her and a second female and a male.
Beslan • Witness claims that the leader remotely set the bomb off to kill those who disagreed about child hostages • Surviving hostages were told to kneel and were subsequently shot, only one lived. • Mined the gym with explosives • Broke out window to prevent gassing
Beslan • Negotiations started, but not successful • Eventually 26 hostages released • No food or water was allowed • 3rd day a small explosion was heard followed by another. • Some believe that RPG’s were used by the military first. Blast and fire killed a majority of the hostages
Beslan • Attack was led by Russian Military forces • Hostages used as shields, who were shot by the military. • Ongoing gun battles throughout night • 385+ people were killed • 334 hostages, 10 Special Forces, 10”Other”, 31 hostage takers • 200 people missing or unidentified
Day Three: September 3rd These two accounts may be reconcilable. Ruslan Aushev, a key negotiator during the siege, told the Russian Newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” that an initial explosion was set off by an hostage-taker accidentally tripping over a trip wire; as a result, armed civilians, some of them apparently fathers of the hostages, started shooting. Reportedly, no security forces or hostage-takers were shooting at this point, but the gunfire led the hostage-takers to believe that the school was being stormed; in response, they set off their bombs. Apparently, it was at this point that Russian special forces activated their action plan to storm the school to rescue any possible survivors. A chaotic battle broke out as the special forces sought to enter the school and cover the escape of the hostages. A massive level of force was used; as well as the special forces, the regular army and Interior Ministry troops were also engaged, as were helicopter gunships and at least one tank. Many local civilians also joined in the battle, having brought along their own weapons.
Day Two: September 2nd During the siege, the terrorists video taped themselves and the hostage situation inside the gymnasium. After the siege, the video tape was recovered. It shows adults and children packed into the school gymnasium as heavily-armed, masked men walk around the room. Explosives, apparently wired and ready for use, lie on the floor while others are looped around basketball hoops at either end of the gym. Russia's NTV network aired the footage several days after the siege had ended. The network did not explain how it obtained the video. Shown below are several still images taken from the video.
Day Three: September 3rd During the battle, a group of hostage-takers, said by the government to number thirteen, broke through the military cordon and took refuge nearby. Two of those thirteen were reportedly women who allegedly attempted to blend into the crowd and escape disguised as health personnel. The military cordon had been compromised by permitting the passage of hostages' relatives, dressed in civilian clothing and, in some cases, bearing firearms. A few of the escapees were said to be cornered in a residential two story house within 40 metres from the gym. Whether or not they had hostages is unknown. The house was destroyed using tanks and flame throwers by 23:00 September 3.
Day Four: September 4th Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Fridinsky states that 31 of 32 attackers had been confirmed dead and one had been seized. One suspected hostage-taker was beaten to death by the fathers of hostages when he was injured and driven to the hospital. According to official data 331 civilians and 11 soldiers died. At least one surviving female hostage committed suicide after returning home. Many other survivors remained in severe shock. Some injured died in hospitals.
Day Three: September 3rd The hostage-takers set off more large explosions, totally destroying the gym and setting much of the building on fire, while the special forces commandos blew holes in walls to allow hostages to escape. By 15:00, two hours after the assault began, Russian troops claimed control of most of the school. However, fighting was still continuing in the grounds as evening fell, and three gunmen were located in the basement along with a number of hostages. They were eventually killed, along with the hostages they were holding.
Survivor • Expect Horrific Scenes
The Aftermath: Dead Terrorist
Eyewitness accounts "We heard a powerful explosion, and the snipers who had been posted to keep an eye on things said the gym had blown up. Shooting began straight away... The hostages started running in our direction... We could hear the characteristic crack of bullets over our heads - they were firing from the direction of the school...I saw children with gunshot wounds being dragged. There were about 12 children who started running out. About four of our lads immediately, without waiting for orders, formed a human shield, and kept the windows [of the school] in their sights... All the entrances were barricaded from inside with desks, chairs and all sorts of rubbish they could gather... So we had to go in through the canteen window. When we went in, we had nowhere to tread on the floor - there were too many hostages, women and children... A gunman sprang out from a small utility room - it was a dead end, so he tried to break out. He shot one of our men at point-blank range and immediately threw a powerful grenade among the hostages. He was immediately killed by another of our men, who was injured by the fragments of that same grenade. It also killed several hostages. There was a dark corridor in front of us, and they were firing from there all the time. We stood a bit to the side, so as not to be hit. I shouted 'Throw a grenade in there!' but the lads said 'How can we? There are children in there!'... There were so many grenades being thrown at us, so much firing - what could we do, with all the children there? We could not throw grenades there or do anything. So that's how it was." Unnamed officer in special unit of Federal Security Service (FSB) in Russia TV interview "Throughout the three days that we were held hostage we were virtually on top of each other. There were about 1,100 of us crammed in there. Periodically gunmen came in and for a joke ordered all of us to stand up or sit down. It went on like that all day long. They put a huge explosive device in the middle - about 50cm by 50cm - controlled by a trigger mechanism. One of the terrorists kept squeezing it with his foot. When they got tired they put a pile of books on the button. The children behaved very calmly - much more so than the adults. The adults were talking to each other and because of that the gunmen shot many of them. They were all prepared for death, especially on the second and third days, because the gunmen were saying nobody would be able to enter the school and also that people outside didn't give a damn about them. ‘They don't even want to give you water or food,' they said. They said nobody had contacted them and nobody had requested anything from them. Sometimes they took the boys' clothes, soaked them in a bucket used for the floor mop, then threw the clothes at us, saying 'drink that!'" Marina Kozyreva, mother of schoolgirl Diana, spent the whole time in the school gym and was later interviewed by the Russian newspaper “Kommersant”.
Eyewitness accounts "Initially we were escorted to the toilet together, then they stopped doing that, and only took the little kids. All the time the explosives were hanging above us - they used adhesive tape to fix it there. Before the assault the bandits started arguing with each other about something. I've spent a long time in Chechnya, I know the Chechen language, and they weren't speaking Chechen - they were just speaking a strange language like Arabic, and also Ingush. One of the gunmen was reading the Koran constantly, and I counted exactly 23 gunmen altogether. The leader was on the roof the whole time with a sniper's rifle. We realized that, because the others went to him for advice. The older pupils were forced to carry desks to barricade the windows. When the assault started one of the bandits shouted 'I'll save you'. Everybody ran towards him and then he blew himself up, killing many people. The whole time they never let anybody sleep - if somebody dozed off they would shake him awake again, saying 'no sleeping!' The explosion took place under the roof - there was no external explosion. When the assault came I pulled two girls out with me.” Marat Khamayev, 15, also spoke to the Russian newspaper “Kommersant” "It took us all by surprise. We were told there would be talks and we were ordered to lie face down [in the gym]... Then there was an explosion in the yard. Then there was shooting... [My sister and I] stayed where we were, lying on the floor. But suddenly there was another explosion above us and part of the ceiling fell in. People were screaming, there was panic. I looked up and saw some children lying on the floor covered in blood and not moving. There was a dead lady lying beside me. Torn-off arms and legs were lying everywhere. There were bombs hanging on the rope they'd strung up between the basketball hoops, across the gym. And now these bombs began going off, one after the other, coming closer and closer to us. Anyone who could get up ran screaming to the windows and the back entrance corridor. Alina and I were near a window [both sisters managed to escape unscathed]." Diana Gadzhinova, 14-year-old girl hostage, speaking to Izvestiya newspaper "I woke up under the debris and all was covered in sand - my ears, nose and eyes - and I could not see anything. Then we were taken to the dining room. There we were given water, then explosions started. And then we jumped out of the window and we were taken to the hospital." Irina, girl hostage
Eyewitness accounts "There was this thin tall man of about 35, a typical Chechen, his right hand bandaged. He was the angriest of our captors, he was threatening us all the time and firing into the ceiling. It was so stuffy I was unwell, I fainted several times, so my mum asked him to take me to the corridor for a while to take a breath of air. To my surprise he agreed. In the corridor I was nearly sick, my legs gave way, and sat on a rucksack lying by the wall. But he said: 'Don't sit on this one, there are mines in it, sit on that one instead'... I asked him 'Will you at least let the children go?' He said: 'No - why? Your Russian troops in Chechnya catch children just like you and cut their heads off. I had a daughter, about your age, and they killed her,' he said." Survivor Santa Zangiyeva, 15, spoke to the Russian newspaper “Izvestiya” "I saw a wounded gunman fall out of the [school] window during the fighting. Solidiers were evacuating children nearby. When they saw the gunman, they tore him to bits within seconds. I did not even have time to realize what was happening. I'll be honest: not even for a second did I think - I am witnessing the killing of a human being. It felt like a venomous snake was being trampled... They were scum. Professional, well-trained scum. Their actions were highly skilful, their shooting was first-class - you could not raise your head... The only thing they did badly was booby-trapping the building. It was not a good idea to let the hostages assemble explosive devices." Moskovskaya Gazeta interviewed Oleg Tideyev, whose son escaped from the besieged school "We broke in, and saw piles of men and women, and children too. The children were naked from the waist up. There was nowhere for us to tread, but we had to go in, so we did. I pulled four people out. Many people were thrown to the corners by the blast, or maybe they crawled there themselves. Few were alive. We had to find those who were still alive, but how? I made two mistakes myself. When I pulled one young girl out, there was another explosion. Just before that, two girls shouted and waved to us from a window, one was about seven, the other a bit older. I waved back to show I'd come for them right now, and they laughed they were so happy! Then there was an explosion, and I never saw these girls again. I'll keep looking for them in the school..." Kommersant interviewed Anzor, a rescuer who helped in the smaller of the school's gyms
New report tries to lay blame on local police(Washington Post; 29 Dec 2005) "The counterterrorist operation was plagued by shortcomings. . . . Many law enforcement officers did not know how to act in an emergency situation." By Peter Finn, Washington Post Foreign Service MOSCOW, Dec. 28 -- In the month before the Beslan school siege in which 331 hostages were killed last year, Russian security services received intelligence that terrorists might try to seize a school in the region on the first day of classes, but instructions for tightened security were ignored, according to preliminary findings of a parliamentary investigation released Wednesday. Although the Russian Interior Ministry sent warning telegrams to regional authorities, the investigation found, only a single unarmed policewoman was stationed outside Beslan's School No. 1 when at least 32 terrorists stormed it on Sept. 1, 2004. She was taken hostage, too. Citing numerous failings by local and regional officials before the attack, the report found "negligence and carelessness in facing a real terrorist threat." The assault by local police, armed civilians and federal troops that ultimately ended the siege was marked by "a whole number of blunders and shortcomings," the commission's chairman, Alexander Torshin, said in presenting the report to parliament Wednesday. Torshin, who is deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, also lambasted officials at the scene for initially lying about the number of hostages taken, which infuriated both the terrorists inside the school and hostages' relatives outside. Overall, the report faulted local officials, leading to some criticism that it whitewashed mistakes by high-level members of the government of President Vladimir Putin. During the crisis, command centers at the scene were in constant contact with Moscow. The report "is an attempt to put the blame on regional and local law enforcers and not on the leaders of federal ministries, who in my view bear responsibility for what happened," Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent member of parliament, told the Associated Press. "They didn't take preventive measures. They didn't check how their orders were being carried out." The attacks "can only be compared with Nazi atrocities," Torshin said. "The hostages who were held in the besieged school were deprived of food, medicines and water. They had to drink their own urine. They were forced to mine the building, and when they tried to escape, they got bullets in their backs." The three-day siege ended in a storm of fire and bullets. Of the 331 hostages killed, 186 were children. In addition, 31 out of 32 fighters died; the survivor is on trial. There have been three separate official inquiries, with sometimes conflicting findings. One conducted by the regional parliament found numerous failings by law enforcement authorities. An initial report by federal prosecutors, released Tuesday, said security services were not to blame for the outcome. That report angered relatives of the victims, but they generally welcomed the tone and thrust of Wednesday's report, which was based on interviews with more than 1,000 people. "The very fact that this commission exists is a precedent for Russia, and we think that Torshin understands that he can't use the usual doublespeak," said Anyeta Gadieva, a spokeswoman for the Beslan Mothers' Committee. She noted that Putin had initially resisted the establishment of an investigative commission. (Continued…)
Mumbai • Most recent hostage takeover • At least 164 dead • Planned some time in advance • Involved detailed planned assault from water • 2,3,4 man teams