“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” -Sun Tzu

What I wanted to do here is take a closer look at the In Amenas Gas Attack and comment on what is of interest. The first story below talks about how such a thing could even happen and that this is a wake up call.

Well it happened because of complacency and because the enemy force exploited a weakness after studying the facility and it’s security apparatus. It’s the same with the Camp Bastion assault, in which the attacking force was keen on the reconnaissance. For raids, good intelligence is key, and this attacking force did their homework.

As to how they were able to cross miles of desert from Libya into Algeria, and maneuver this close for the raid, they used deception. (another Sun Tzu tenet) Here is a quote:

The militants arrived in nine Toyotas with Libyan plates and painted in the colors of Sonatrach, the Algerian oil and gas company that has a share in the plant, according to the Algerian daily El Khabar.

This is a key point to identify in this deal. Deception is becoming more and more of the trademark of today’s terrorist networks. It is a tried and true method of getting forces near the target, as old as warfare itself. Wearing military, police or company uniforms, to throw off the OODA  (the observation part) of the security element or the victims, is a tactic that works. Al Qaeda and it’s partners know this, and they are consistently bringing this into their raid strategies.

For the Camp Bastion assault, the attackers wore US Army uniforms. The attack on FOB Salerno June of last year, the attackers wore ANA uniforms.  The attack on Bagram Air Base back in May of 2010, the attackers wore US military uniforms. In the attack on Pakistan’s Naval Station Mehran, the assault force wore Naval uniforms. This list and trend goes on…. The bottom line, raiders will use deception to achieve their goal of getting close, causing confusion, or killing more folks with a secondary deception tactic, like a VBIED in an ambulance. The imagination is the only limitation, and those security folks who can put together the pieces in their battle space faster than the enemy, will be able to counter.

It is also important to note that these raiding forces usually have suicide assaulters on their teams–or guys with explosive vests.

Let me bring up another killer–apathy and complacency. The In Amenas site had plenty of security, but obviously they were not prepared for such an assault. The second article below talks about how much security there really was.

The Amenas gas plant in Algeria was guarded by around 100 armed gendarmes but they failed to fend off an attack by less than half the number of terrorists, it can be disclosed.
A base for the gendarmes was built between the residential compound and the drilling area which are several miles apart in the desert, sources told the Daily Telegraph.
But they failed to react in time when a convoy of around 14 vehicles arrived at the base at 5.40am on January 16 with heavy machine guns mounted on the back and carrying at least 32 terrorists.
Gendarmes accompanying a bus heading for the airport managed to beat off the first attack and Huw Edwards, a British gas worker on the bus, said he owed his life to them.
However the al-Qaeda-backed militants were able to get into the residential compound and take dozens of Westerners hostage.
The army arrived to provide back up from a base around 30km (18.5m) away but their two attempts to launch a rescue ended in a bloodbath and the death of at least 37 foreign workers.

But this quote tells us something else about the style of attack that the enemy used here that should be noted. The enemy was able to gain relative superiority using surprise and violence of action. According to the book Spec Ops, the six principals of special operations success are simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed, and purpose. Obviously the enemy is following similar principals, and surprise and speed was key in order for a small group to take on a large group such as this and actually gain access to the facility.

I would even say purpose is something to throw in there, just because these guys were hell bent on getting western hostages and either killing them or holding them for ransom, and destroying the facility.

That last part is a great way to transition to the 60 Minutes show on the attack. If you watch the video and listen to the commentary of these individuals, you get an idea of how focused this assault force was on finding and killing/capturing western hostages. And these employees knew how important they were to the terrorists.

In the 2008 Mumbai Attack, the assault teams were very systematic in their execution of hostages, to include western hostages. So with that said, security folks should not advise their clients to give up when it comes to terrorist attacks, simply because this is a death sentence. Run, Hide, Fight is more in line with what needs to happen, and your client should definitely be briefed on the overall security plan in the event of a complex assault like this one. At the In Amenas attack, the terrorists were intent on killing hostages and destroying the plant.

Perhaps late Wednesday or early Thursday morning — Mr. Sellal described it as a nighttime episode — the kidnappers attempted a breakout. “They put explosives on the hostages. They wanted to put the hostages in four-wheel-drive vehicles and take them to Mali.”
Mr. Sellal then suggested that government helicopters immobilized the kidnappers. Witnesses have described an intense army assault, resulting in both militant and hostage deaths.
“A great number of workers were put in the cars; they wanted to use them as human shields,” the prime minister said. “There was a strong response from the army, and three cars exploded,” he said. One contained an Algerian militant whom the prime minister identified as the leader, Mohamed-Lamine Bouchneb.
The second and final operation happened Saturday, Mr. Sellal said, when the 11 remaining kidnappers moved into the gas-producing part of the complex, a hazardous area that he said they had already tried to ignite.
“The aim of the terrorists was to explode the gas compound,” he said. In this second assault, he said, there were “a great number of hostages,” and the kidnappers were ordered to kill them all. It was then, he said, that army snipers killed the kidnappers.

 Another point to bring up with this attack is that it was early morning and possibly during a shift change. The attackers definitely timed their attack as the bus full of workers was coming in. So time and timing was crucial here as well. It is important to note that most complex attacks of this nature, occur in low light or at night, so it seems.

The In Amenas assault started at 0540 in the morning. The Camp Bastion Assault started at 2200 at night. The Mehran attack started at 2230 at night. The Mumbai attack happened at 2010… So you get a picture here that darkness or low light definitely helps in the ‘surprise and deception’ department, and the enemy knows this.

Another pattern I am seeing is the use of multiple assault teams. In the Camp Bastion assault, they had three teams of five. In the Mumbai Assault, they had two teams of six and four men. The In Amenas attack had nine trucks filled with around 40 militants. In all of these attacks, there was a division of labor here and the attacks were organized. Teams were assigned targets and objectives.

The point to bring up here is that with multiple teams comes multiple problems. Security forces could respond to one attack by one team, and then the other assault teams can start the real attack. It can create confusion for the security forces and it can increase the success of the assault force.  The assault force can even implement Cheng and Ch’i, by using one team to set up the security force with one type of attack, and then use another team or teams for the real attack to achieve the ultimate goal.

The Mumbai attack is a great example of this, where one force causes the distraction and sucked in the majority of emergency response forces to that fight (lighting fires, etc), and then the other team did the systematic search and killing of the primary targets in the hotels. Cheng is the expected or orthodox strategy, and Ch’i is the surprise or unorthodox strategy. Playing the two strategies off of each other creates all sorts of opportunities for an assault force composed of multiple teams. Yet again, the enemy is recognizing the value of this, and security forces have to be aware of the attack coming from multiple points and at multiple times.

Well, that is about all I have on this one.  If you would like to further delve into the lessons learned that others have brought forth, here is a link. It would be great to hear what other folks picked up on this and other attacks.

I also want to mention the heroic acts of the security force in the face of such an attack. The lone guard named Mohamed Lamine Lahmar who was killed shortly after he hit the alarm button to shut down the plant and warn everyone, certainly saved lives. The Stirling Group contractors whom died in the defense of their client also get special mention, as do the hostages whom were killed.

The lesson here is that companies will adjust and security forces will learn from this incident to build a better defense–or apply continuous improvement to their operation. We must actually recognize what the enemy is doing or deal with reality, both in Africa and elsewhere in the world, and learn from this. Most importantly, we must stay one step ahead of them and implement security plans that effectively deal with this reality. As Sun Tzu would say, we must ‘rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable. -Matt



Algeria Attack A ‘Wake-Up Call’ For Energy Companies
by Tom Gjelten
January 24, 2013
A week has passed since the terrorist attack on a natural gas facility in Algeria, but risk analysts and security experts are still undecided about the incident’s likely impact in the energy world.
The price of oil, a good indicator of anxiety in the energy market, went up modestly right after the attack, but then it stabilized. No energy company has suspended operations in Algeria, nor has any company announced it will hold off on future investments in North Africa, a key source of oil and gas supplies.
It may just be that governments and energy companies are still trying to figure out exactly what happened at the In Amenas gas field. The complex had not been attacked during decades of civil war in Algeria.
Success Of Raid ‘A Mystery’
David Goldwyn, formerly the State Department’s special envoy for international energy affairs, notes that the complex was surrounded by “a ring of steel.”

“You had a tremendous amount of desert,” Goldwyn says. “You had a perimeter far from the actual operations, and you had interior perimeters as you got closer to the operating facilities. So, frankly, it remains a mystery to me how it was that this group of terrorists was able to penetrate this.”

Some analysts suspect the Algerian government, which is responsible for the security at its oil and gas installations, simply grew complacent. Not knowing how it happened, it’s hard to know whether such an attack could occur again.
Goldwyn, now a private energy consultant, says if it was an inside job or some individual letting down his guard, the attack is less likely to be repeated elsewhere.
“If the answer is [instead] that the force capability of these terrorists is greater than the security precautions in place can prevent, than that is going to dictate a hardening of the security perimeter and an increase in the lethality of the folks on the inside in order to deter those sorts of attacks,” Goldwyn says.
In other words, higher fences, more guards and more guns.
Other Potential Targets
Not surprisingly, as the most catastrophic terrorist attack ever on a gas or oil facility in North Africa, the seizure of the Algerian gas complex has grabbed the attention of energy companies in the region.
“It’s clearly a wake-up call,” says Geoff Porter, a risk analyst specializing in North Africa. “I think what oil companies are now trying to determine is whether this was an isolated incident or whether this is the beginning of a new security paradigm in North Africa, [meaning] we are likely to see repeat attacks in the months and years to come.”
Militant Islamists are on the rise across North Africa. It is possible they may now target energy facilities, especially in countries where the security is not as tight as it has been in Algeria.
“That leaves open the potential for attacks in Libya, which has a developed hydrocarbon sector and associated infrastructure,” Porter says. “It also raises the possibility there’ll be attacks on other extractive industry installations, throughout the region, like Mauritania or Niger.”
Although the Algeria attack was the most dramatic, it was not the first. Terrorists linked to al-Qaida took hostages at uranium mines in northern Niger in 2010.
Cost Of Increased Security
If security becomes an even bigger problem for energy companies in North Africa, they will have to consider the higher costs they would face; so would the governments that bear most of the security responsibilities.
But it may be worth it. Scott Stewart, a counterterrorism analyst at Stratfor, a private intelligence firm, points out that after the government in Niger tightened security at its uranium mines, they were not hit again.
“I think we’ll see a similar thing happening in Algeria and probably in other countries in the region because the incomes they receive from these extractive industries are so critical to the national economies,” he says. “They really need to protect them, and they will put a lot of resources toward safeguarding them.”
In the case of Algeria, the government is clearly eager for foreign energy companies to continue investing in the country. Just this week, the Algerian parliament approved a new law lowering taxes on foreign firms in the country, something foreign investors there have long been pushing for.
Story here.


32 Militants Overran 100 Guards To Take Over Algerian Oil Field
Duncan Gardham

The Amenas gas plant in Algeria was guarded by around 100 armed gendarmes but they failed to fend off an attack by less than half the number of terrorists, it can be disclosed.
A base for the gendarmes was built between the residential compound and the drilling area which are several miles apart in the desert, sources told the Daily Telegraph.
But they failed to react in time when a convoy of around 14 vehicles arrived at the base at 5.40am on January 16 with heavy machine guns mounted on the back and carrying at least 32 terrorists.
Gendarmes accompanying a bus heading for the airport managed to beat off the first attack and Huw Edwards, a British gas worker on the bus, said he owed his life to them.
However the al-Qaeda-backed militants were able to get into the residential compound and take dozens of Westerners hostage.
The army arrived to provide back up from a base around 30km (18.5m) away but their two attempts to launch a rescue ended in a bloodbath and the death of at least 37 foreign workers.
Questions are now likely to be asked about how the terrorist convoy was able to cross the border from Libya 30km away without being detected and why the security failed to respond.
The gendarmes were said to have done a “very good job in a passive environment” but a security source admitted they appear to have “come up short” when tested.
“BP is going to have to ensure there is adequate safety and security if they reopen the plant because no one is going to want to go back there otherwise,” one worker said.
The gas drilling operation in the remote region of southern Algeria, close to the border with Libya, was identified as a dangerous spot when work began in 2006, sources said.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in the Saharan area known as the Sahel, has earned at least £13m in ransoms for kidnapping Westerners and executed captives where no money was paid.
Initially the site at In Amenas was secured by British ex-military guards but around 2007 the Algerian government asked them to hand in their weapons so that they could take over the security operation.
The drilling takes placed in a militarized zone with check points on major roads and an army base around 30km (18.5miles) away
BP largely ran the security operation on behalf of the joint venture with Statoil of Norway and Sonatrach of Algeria.
BP prefers to use local law enforcement to guard their bases in order to avoid the appearance of hiring a private army but they used a private security firm called Stirling Group to liaise with the Algerians.
However the private guards – made up largely of former British military and French Foreign Legion soldiers – were not allowed to carry weapons, or train the local gendarmes and were responsible only for liaising with the local officials.
Paul Morgan, a former French legionnaire from Liverpool who worked for Stirling, died on the bus in the early stages of the attack.
A source at BP said: “The host government was responsible for security and there were several layers, including a military presence in the vicinity.
“What happened was unprecedented and the question of why it happened is crucial but we are not at the stage of looking at the yet.”
Stirling is run by Mike Lord, a former sergeant in the Royal Military Police, who has been working in Algeria for 20 years.
His company has a turn-over of £10m in the country and contracts with the US company Hess, the Australian company Oil Search Ltd and the British company Petrofac as well as BP.
Story here.

Algeria Gas Compound Lacked Armed Guards
January 23, 2013
The companies operating the gas facility in the Sahara that was attacked last week had chosen not to deploy armed guards inside the sprawling compound, leading security analysts to question whether the assault by more than 30 Islamist militants might have been slowed if security had been tighter.
Until the siege on the remote In Amenas facility last Wednesday, dozens of North African desert camps were thought to be virtually impregnable, with steel-wire fences, long-range reconnaissance equipment and army patrols amid the sand dunes.
But when the attackers came, taking dozens of foreign workers hostage, they faced little opposition. Armed with mortars, grenade launchers and .50-caliber machine guns, the militants were an overwhelming force. But security experts said the armed guards found at most production and drilling facilities in North Africa and the Middle East might have at least slowed the terrorists, letting more workers escape.
“The attack clearly caught everybody by surprise,” said Geoff D. Porter, a political risk and security consultant for oil companies in North Africa. “Had there been armed guards, there could have been a different outcome.”
The Algerian government dismissed suggestions that it could have stopped the assault, which led to a major hostage crisis that left at least 27 foreigners dead.
An Algerian official, who requested anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter, said the attack was conducted in the dark by a heavily armed force that moved quickly over the border from Libya, making it hard for security forces to repel. Also, the official said, the government learned later how the militants were able to wage such a well-planned assault on the facility: one had worked there as a driver and presumably knew the layout.
Algerian law prohibits armed foreign security personnel, but it permits private Algerian armed guards. The operators of the gas facility — a joint venture by BP, the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian national oil company Sonatrach — decided to rely solely on the many Algerian gendarmes and soldiers who patrolled the In Amenas area.
Some oil companies operating in Algeria do use military guards or private Algerian security forces. “It’s company-specific,” said Mike Lord, chief executive of the Stirling Group, which oversaw security at the In Amenas camp. There are risks to having armed security personnel at oil or gas sites, Mr. Lord said, including explosions that might be caused by stray bullets.
Algerian security forces provided “perimeter” and “zone” security at the In Amenas base, Mr. Lord said, and the Stirling Group organized escorts of Algerian forces to accompany employees when they traveled between secured zones. But there were no armed guards within the secured zones, Mr. Lord said, under the policy set by BP and Statoil.
There was a broad fence perimeter, and it was monitored 24 hours a day. No one could come near the camp without an identification badge, and no one without official permission could travel by air or road nearby. Attacks on Algerian oil and gas sites have been rare, even during the civil war of the 1990s, officials said.
Sonatrach has a security department that employs armed guards. And according to the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, Algeria gave permission in 2011, after civil war broke out across the border in Libya, for private armed guards to be used at In Amenas, one of the country’s largest natural gas fields. But BP and Statoil said they did not want the legal responsibility.
“We and Statoil decided not to have armed guards on site,” said Robert Wine, a BP spokesman. “Given the large military presence in the area, we took the view that armed guards were not required on the site.”
A Statoil spokesman, Bard Glad Pedersen, said the company would review its security procedures. “We will go through all elements of this terrible event, including questions connected to security,” he said in an e-mail.
That review should be conducted by an independent panel, said Stein Bredal, a former member of the Statoil board, who contends that the company underestimated the risks in Algeria. “To be sure that the truth really comes forward, it’s much better that people can speak frankly, and they have a duty to report whatever they’ve been through,” he said in an interview.
Bernard Duncan Lyng, who was head of corporate security and contingency units at Statoil from 1984 to 1992 and worked with the company until 2000, said that when Statoil set up a facility in Nigeria in the early 1990s, it hired armed guards.
“The first thing we did was to plan where would the best place be to have our site, safety- and security-wise, and establish a system of armed guards, and we did that,” Mr. Lyng said.
But while rare, attacks on oil company personnel in Algeria have occurred. In 1994, during the civil war between Algiers and Islamist militants, two Schlumberger engineers were executed at a Sonatrach site by militants.
Most big oil and gas companies have armed guards in their facilities, said Pierre Montoro, managing director of Erys Group, a French company that provides security to multinational companies in Algeria and around the region. “People should be armed on these sites to contain the attack, for a few minutes, anyway, to allow the authorities to intervene.”
Executives in the oil and gas industry said that their companies could handle the extra security concerns, but that new defense measures would be costly.
“To recreate confidence, it will take a lot of hand-holding with insurance companies, service companies and investment bankers,” said Badr Jafar, president of Crescent Petroleum, a regional oil company based in the United Arab Emirates.
Others were more dire in their predictions of higher expenses, and ultimately higher prices at the pump. “This is going to drive up costs probably 20 percent,” said Dragan Vuckovic, president of Mediterranean International, an oil service company that operates in Libya and Iraq.
Story here.

Companies reassess security after Algeria hostage crisis
January 21, 2013
Companies, including Fairfield-based General Electric, are reinforcing security at their facilities in the world’s trouble spots and reviewing evacuation plans after at least 23 workers were killed in an attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria.
The incident is prompting businesses operating in North Africa and other politically volatile regions to enact safety programs to protect employees, said Tim Husted of Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Companies are “very aware” of the militant attacks and are carrying out contingency plans, which may include relocation of non-essential personnel, he said in a telephone interview.
“In a situation where something like this happens in an area where these risks are very known risks, our clients tend to be very prepared,” Husted said.
AngloGold Ashanti, the Johannesburg-based gold prospector with interests in three mines in Mali, said it’s reinforcing security even though its operations are far from the conflict. The company is limiting travel, avoiding certain routes and deploying additional guards around the mines and residential villages, said Alan Fine, a spokesman for the mining company.
Companies and many of the consultants that work for them generally won’t discuss their security measures, preferring not to share that information publicly. After the attacks in Algeria, corporate statements reflected caution and concern.
“We’re looking at all appropriate measures according to the situation,” said Sebastien Duchamp, a spokesman for GE said in a telephone interview. “Our No. 1 priority is ensuring the safety of our employees at all times. We can’t discuss specific security protocols.”
Algeria’s special forces ended the takeover of the gas plant operated by London-based BP, Statoil of Norway and Algeria’s Sonatrach in a final raid on the facility Jan. 19. Security forces freed 685 Algerian workers and about 107 foreign captives, according to Algeria’s Ministry of Interior. Officials warned the death toll could rise.
While threats to corporate facilities and employees are not a new problem, improved technology and weaponry creates constantly shifting challenges that must be managed.
“There are new dangers, emerging dangers, and in many cases, the companies and organizations just are ill-equipped to handle that increased threat,” said Bruce Branson, associate director of the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.
Algerian security forces weren’t prepared for the scale and severity of the attack on the gas plant, said Rob Harford, a director at Salamanca Risk Management, part of the London-based Salamanca Group Merchant Bank and operational risk consultant.
“When faced with a specific and direct threat, security levels and protection measures need to be enhanced,” he said. Global corporations are increasingly relying on their own intelligence networks to anticipate and respond to events that threaten workers’ safety or damage their business, said Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence at Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based corporate security consultant. Companies from energy and mining to transportation and hotels are hiring former military and government analysts, and investing in the most sophisticated surveillance and safety technology to improve their ability to avoid danger.
“They have to operate in these areas with a very robust capability to develop information on their own,” Burton said. “What they’re looking for are tripwires for events to start unfolding that may give them even three hours, if not 72 hours, to be able to batten down the hatches or start removing their personnel from some of these volatile areas.”
Terrorist attacks are only one part of the array of threats companies face. Corporate security forces must develop intelligence networks in regions with increased potential for violence, shoring up detection and defense capabilities.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has declined thanks to the shipping industry’s increased use of armed guards and international naval patrols. Violent pirate attacks are rising, though, off the coast of West Africa, where dozens of tankers transit every day.
Oil and natural gas companies including Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell, San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron and Total of France have battled Nigerian thieves and militants for decades who attack their facilities and sabotage pipelines.
Foreign workers have long been a target of kidnappings and attacks by paramilitary groups and criminal gangs in Latin America, especially in Colombia. Colombia’s armed forces are searching for rebels that kidnapped five people working for Toronto-based gold prospector Braeval Mining last week, including three employees and two consultants.
“The company is fully cooperating with efforts of the authorities to ensure the safety and health of its employees and consultants,” Braeval said in a statement Jan. 18. The kidnapping was carried out by 25 members of the National Liberation Army, according to Armed Forces Chief Alejandro Navas.
Anticipation and prevention is a growing focus of companies operating in regions where foreigners can generate resentment and hostilities, especially energy and mining workers who tap natural resources, said Daniel Karson, a chairman with Kroll Advisory Solutions in New York.
Kroll advises companies to throw out preconceptions and start from scratch in evaluating safety at their facilities. Priorities are “lives first and assets second,” Karson said.
Companies start by assessing potential threats in their chosen location, including political risks and any history of violence in the area. Security officials are diving deeper into the backgrounds of the people they hire or work with, searching for red flags such as a history of accepting bribes, Karson said.
Remote facilities like the gas plant in Algeria, where help is not close at hand, get special attention. Buildings are reinforced and technology is used to control access to the perimeter and interior of the facility, including alarm systems, panic buttons, and retinal or fingerprint-scanning systems to secure doors. Cameras can stream live images of the premises to security monitors anywhere in the world, Karson said.
“It’s very difficult to make things safe,” said Simon Hawkins, an oil analyst at Nplus1 Singer in London, who was captured by gunmen when he worked for Shell in Nigeria in the 1990s. “Armored guards, security gates, locked fire doors — that’s all you can do, really, and sometimes that’s not good enough.”
Avoiding dangerous places is one of the basic security measures taken at Parker Hannifin, a motion and control equipment-maker based in Cleveland, Ohio, said Chief Executive Officer Don Washkewicz. Washkewicz canceled a trip to the Middle East after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff dead. And he won’t travel to Colombia.
The company, with 311 manufacturing locations in 48 countries, provides security guards for executives traveling to places like Brazil and Mexico.
“You never can be 100 percent safe, but we try to be as safe as possible,” Washkewicz said.

Story here.