Posts Tagged terrorism

Massachusetts: The Boston Marathon Bombings

My heart goes out to the victims and dead, to the friends and family members of the victims and dead, and to the first responders and bystanders that stepped up to help.

I do not really have a lot of input on the attack. I think what is interesting though is that no one has claimed responsibility yet, which might indicate that we are dealing with an individual or a pair that put this together, and not an organization. If I had to speculate, my guess is that this is domestic terrorism, but you never know?

This attack is not particularly complex, and whomever the bomber was, could have easily put this attack together on their own. All of the components used in this IED would not really flag the individual prior too this attack. In the US, gunpowder or fertilizer is very easy to purchase (speculation). Pressure cookers can be bought anywhere, as can backpacks. There are plenty of videos and news broadcasts of attacks just like this one that came out of places like Iraq or Afghanistan, that a bomber could learn from and copy. The amount of information on such topics is all over the internet.

On that note, authorities are in the process of pouring over the thousands of images and film taken with cellphone cameras and other devices that people had taken at the time. Someone had to have seen the bomber place the backpacks into those trash cans. There is even a time period when the backpack was placed, based on the IED sweep done by authorities prior to and during the race. Here is the quote:

Officials swept the area for bombs twice before the explosions; one of the sweeps occurred an hour before the bombs went off. People were able to come and go freely, and carry items in and out of the area. More than 5,700 runners had yet to cross the finish line at the time of the explosions.

I hope they are able to catch them, and please, if you think you might have seen something of interest here, contact the FBI. –Matt



Boston Marathon bombings (from wikipedia)
Two bombs exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon on the afternoon of April 15, 2013, injuring spectators, runners, and others near the finish line. The improvised explosive devices exploded about 12 seconds apart at 2:50 p.m. EDT (18:50 UTC) along Boylston Street west of Copley Square. The blasts killed 3 people and injured at least 183 others.
No suspects have been named, and there have been no arrests or claims of responsibility for the attack. President Barack Obama announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating the bombings as an act of terrorism.
On Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 15, 2013, the annual Boston Marathon was held with no indications of an imminent attack. Officials swept the area for bombs twice before the explosions; one of the sweeps occurred an hour before the bombs went off. People were able to come and go freely, and carry items in and out of the area. More than 5,700 runners had yet to cross the finish line at the time of the explosions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Industry Talk: What Can We Learn From The In Amenas Gas Plant Attack?

“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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Maritime Security: Documents Reveal Al Qaeda’s Plans For Seizing Cruise Ships And Executing Passengers

Investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, was the first to report on the documents. One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer “says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public.”
Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists “would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners.”
The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution.

This is the kind of thing I have been harping on in past discussions about armed guards on boats. Pirates are one thing, but terrorists taking down a cruise ship and turning it into a floating propaganda execution machine is quite the other. So what happens when pirates sell Al Qaeda a boat? Or better yet, pirates use this tactic to motivate negotiators and ship owners to pay up. Meaning, they will just hand the boat over to AQ if they refuse to pay up. Quite the incentive huh?

Another thing that needs to be mentioned here is the rules for the use of force being practiced by the shipping industry, and the size and lethality of the force they use. I would think that there would be more incentive to have a higher number of armed guards on a vessel filled with people, versus a vessel that is just a tanker or cargo hauler. But strangely, you see quite the opposite. That cruise liners shun having a robust armed force, just because it makes the passengers ‘uneasy’. It is an game that the cruise liners play, and they are counting on hope and luck that they will not become victims of terrorists on the high seas.

Not only that, but an RUF should be implemented that is able to deal with potential threats that are as far out from the vessel as possible. Meaning use the radio to communicate with them, use flares to get their attention, use drones to fly out and see what they are up to, and do anything you can to determine who these folks are that posturing towards the vessel. It is all about OODA, and the ability to observe and have a sound orientation to process those observations and make good decisions is key.You have to be faster than the enemy with your OODA, you have be wary of an enemy getting inside your decision making cycle, and you must be wary of an enemy using Cheng and Ch’i to gain advantage.

You must have the means to decide if something is a threat, as far away from the boat as possible. Because the closer that vessel gets to your boat, the less time for decision making occurs. The enemy is then able to get inside your OODA loop, and that is not good. They will also use any means necessary to get close, to include wolf in sheep’s clothing or false flag tactics. They can also detonate a bomb if they get close enough, and the USS Cole attack is a great example of this. They could also have individuals already on board, and hijack it that way. Lot’s of ways for these folks to make this happen, and it must be taken seriously.

This is also not new if anyone remembers the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. This should come as no surprise that AQ would want to conduct a similar attack. Now imagine these guys hijacking a large cruise ship with over 6000 passengers? They could execute a prisoner every day and film it for several years. They could rig the whole thing to sink if threatened by hostage rescue folks.  Let’s see, my fuzzy math would say that an attack like this would equate to more deaths than what happened on 9/11.

So with that said, there should be a small private tactical response team on every one of these large cruise ships to protect those thousands of folks. Something akin to what private nuclear plants have. The cruise ships should actually promote the level of security they have and let passengers know that they have a robust security force ready to take on pirates or terrorists. I know I would choose that cruise liner over one that does not have it. –Matt


US Coast Guard escorting a cruise liner.

Documents reveal al Qaeda’s plans for seizing cruise ships, carnage in Europe
By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
May 1, 2012
Editor’s note: This story is based on internal al Qaeda documents, details of which were obtained by CNN. German cryptologists discovered hundreds of documents embedded inside a pornographic movie on a memory disk belonging to a suspected al Qaeda operative arrested in Berlin last year. The German newspaper Die Zeit was the first to report on the documents.
On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.
Buried inside them was a pornographic video called “Kick Ass” — and a file marked “Sexy Tanja.”
Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence — more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group’s most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Kenya: The Government Teams Up With PSC’s For Counter-Terrorism Efforts

Kenya’s private security industry is undergoing radical changes triggered by numerous threats arising from terrorism activities in the country. The firms are struggling to meet new demands that seek to align their operations with those of government security agencies. Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the idea is to ensure that security guards complement police and other agencies like the National Security Intelligence Service and the military in the war against terrorism.
Kenya has been on high security alert since October last year when the military entered Somalia in Operation Linda Nchi, to fight Al-Shabaab. “We need these people (private guards) because some of them are very well-trained and professional. But in the end we need an Act to inculcate professionalism across the board,” said Mr Kiraithe.

Below I have posted two articles that discuss the latest efforts that the Kenyan government is taking in order to work with and regulate their PSC industry in order to better prepare them for counter-terror efforts. The reason why this is important to Kenya is that terrorism has increased in their country and it is a threat to their tourism industry. It is also a threat to the population itself, and thanks to their neighbor called Somalia, they have plenty of pirates and jihadists to deal with.

The company mentioned in this first article is called XFOR Security Solutions. It is a UK company and they are teaming up with police officers from Kenya to train other PSC’s in the country.

He said the Security firms can play a big role in bringing security services closer to members of the public.
“We have carried out training in Nairobi where we meet various security heads from different sectors to educate them on various ways to identify and counter terrorism and we hope to extend the training to North Eastern,” said Mr Lincon-Hope.
The training comes a few months after a French woman and a British Couple were kidnapped while on holiday in Kiwayu, a few kilometres north of Lamu.

Tourism is also a big component of Kenya’s economy, and with so many other threats to their economy, it would make sense that they would try to shore up their security services there. From high oil prices to droughts, Kenya is having to take measures to better their economic prospects. So enter the private security market and the current requirements for protecting the resorts and game reserves.

The second article below talks about the government’s regulatory efforts. Notice how there is more of an emphasis on how to create a system of rules and laws that will make PSC’s more of an asset in Kenya’s efforts to counter terror and crime. That is great, and this is how a government should view their PSC’s–as strategic national security assets, and not as a liabilities.

National Private Security Workers Union secretary-general Thomas Alloyce said:
“Once the law is passed, requirements for one to offer private security will be expanded. Guards will undergo training in bomb detection and disposal, VIP protection and counter- terrorism strategies.”
In the draft stage, the Bill faced hurdles over some proposed sections.
For instance, the issuance of firearms to security guards.
“We are safer when we have as many people out there each with qualifications in certain security areas.”

I wish Kenya well with their efforts and we will see how things go. If any readers have anything to add, feel free to comment below. –Matt


Coast police officer Aggrey Adoli with security staff from various hotels along the coastline after they attended an anti-terrorism training organised by XFOR security Solutions-Kenya on February 13, 2012. Photo/LABAN WALLOGA

Police train private security firms’ staff on explosives in war against terrorism
February 13  2012
The fight against terrorism continued to gather momentum after the government teamed up with private security firms to seek a joint solution to the crime.
It is seen as a decisive step by the government to restore confidence to tourists following last year’s two abduction cases in Lamu by Somali bandits.
On Monday, the police department promised to work closely with private security firms in Coast Province, particularly along the 600 kilometre coastline to prevent any further terrorists attacks.
A joint training is being conducted in Mombasa, organised by a British based security private firm, XFOR Security Solution and top police officers.
They are gathered at the Nyali Reef Hotel to coach more than 100 participants from different security firms.
Detecting explosives
The trainees will learn various ways of detecting explosives and how to collect intelligence in their respective work places, especially in hotels and other business premises, such as supermarkets.
The merger comes days after a security firm, Brinks Security based in Mombasa aided in the arrest of a British who was taking pictures near the Central Bank, Mombasa branch and various sensitive premises in Mombasa town.
Speaking while opening the training, Coast Provincial Police boss Aggrey Adoli and provincial Anti-Terrorism department head Elijah Rop said the knowledge will ensure private security firms’ employees are conversant with various explosives which might be a threat to the business they offer security services to.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Maritime Security: Al Qaeda Considered Targeting Oil Tankers

I am sure we will get more of these reports leaking out from the Bin Laden raid material. This is of particular interest, because this supports the jihadist privateer concept I talked about awhile back. If economic attacks are on their mind, then using pirates to seize these vessels and then sink or crash them into a port is definitely something they could benefit from. Or just sinking a vessel in a key water way like the Straits of Hormuz.  There are a number of things AQ could do with a vessel like an oil tanker, and the imagination is the only limitation.

This article also mentioned AQ’s prior attempted attacks on oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.  Attacks on oil, be it facilities or tankers, is a symbolic attack as well as an economic attack.  For this reason, it makes perfect sense that countries like the UAE or Saudi Arabia would invest their oil money into measures that would protect their golden goose.

Finally, this only emphasizes to those security contractors out there that are protecting these vessels, that you have a very important and dangerous job. You are floating on a ‘gold goose’, and it certainly is an attractive target to pirates and terrorists alike. –Matt

Al Qaeda Considered Targeting Oil Tankers
MAY 21, 2011
Intelligence seized from Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout suggested that al Qaeda is interested in attacking oil tankers, Homeland Security officials said, a discovery that has prompted the agency to warn industry officials and local law enforcement.
The warning comes on the heels of indications of continued interest by al Qaeda in attacking other favorite targets, including planes and trains.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Industry Talk: The Booming Private Security Industries Of Pakistan And India

     Below I have posted two snapshots of the private security industries in Pakistan and India. In a nutshell, those industries are exploding with growth. In Pakistan, terrorism is the driver of this increase. In India it is a combination of economic expansion along with terrorism as the drivers.

     Of course Pakistan and India are very mistrustful of one another, and there is also the growth of their defense industries to meet the needs of their militaries. Interesting stuff and definitely an area to keep a watch on. –Matt

Boom in Pakistan’s private security industry

January 18, 2011

Pakistan’s deteriorating  law and order has led to a boom in the private security industry in the country. Companies are investing millions of dollars to train and update their security operations.

 An estimated 30,000 private security guards have found employment with 400 private security agencies that have sprung up in Pakistan in recent years. These guards are paid about ten thousand Pakistani rupees a month… well above the minimum wage of six thousand.

Specialist security guards and bodyguards make around 25 thousand rupees.

Training includes special focus on the deadliest of enemies, the suicide bomber. Iqbal Mahmood, the trainer at Security 2000 explains how to look for one. “If someone is draped in white dress, particularly resembling a white shroud is a sign that the person has come ready to die. This is usually the first sign, secondly when the body looks a bit out of proportions; particularly the chest is raised higher than a normal human being is another give away sign that this person might be a suicide bomber,” says Mahmood.

The security industry in Pakistan is worth around 60 million dollars a year. Visit any luxury hotel in Pakistan and you’ll see where the money is being spent.

Zahid Shah, Security Manager at Pearl Continental Hotel says, “We have tried to maintain and standardise our security arrangements by beefing up this location with various kinds of systems, there can be hydraulic blockers, there are electronic barriers, there are sniffer dogs, besides of course the manual arrangements which is comprising of the security guards and the supervisors that we have.”

Story here.


Booming private security agencies seek PE funding

Paramita Chatterjee & Pramugdha Mamgain

18 Jan, 2011

As rapid economic expansion creates a booming market for private security services, small and mid-sized companies in the sector are seeking risk capital infusion to further expansion plans. Growing public infrastructure in the form of roads, airports, shopping malls and commercial complexes has triggered a boom in the market for security services that is expected to grow five-fold to reach a size of 30,000 crore by 2015.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,