Direct action plans for terror attacks
Senior Victorian police are undergoing international “hostage rescue” training as part of an Australia wide shift in counter-terrorism tactics with experts now acknowledging that attempts to negotiate peaceful outcomes in IS-inspired sieges are likely to fail.
While negotiations remain the first and preferred option in siege situations, officers will be authorised to take direct action, including sniper attacks, forced entries and the use of tear gas and stun bombs, rather than wait for terrorists to move on hostages.
South-west Sydney terror raid
Two people are arrested and charged with foreign incursion offences following counter-terrorism raids in Sydney’s south-west. Vision: Nine News.
Under the new approach, commanders at the scene will be provided with intelligence dossiers and operational options while Special Operations Group police will immediately rehearse their hostage rescue plan specific to the existing risk.
The use of “casualty reduction” methods, intelligence sharing, suspect identification and early intervention will be examined at an international counter-terrorism conference that begins in Melbourne on Monday.
Five of the world’s most experienced counter-terror experts have flown to Melbourne to address the Victoria Police summit; Counter Terrorism: The Evolution of the Terrorist Threat – Meeting the Challenge.
In recent days selected senior police were given briefings on the latest operational methods by West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, the officer in charge of the Force’s 600-strong counter-terrorism unit and an expert in police terrorism training.
Victorian Police Assistant Commissioner (counter-terrorism) Ross Guenther, said: “We have a great opportunity to learn from the world experts.”
Australian, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong police and intelligence agency officers will hear from US, Belgian, Northern Ireland, French and English experts on issues that include:
Ross Guenther will be involved in an international counter-terrorism conference in Melbourne. Photo: Jason South
*Muslim children as young as 12 who have been radicalised in less than a week.
*Monitoring national citizens turned international IS fighters when they return home.
Police have restructured tactics since the Lindt Cafe siege in 2014. Photo: AAP
*Whether convicted terrorists should be kept in “super prisons” or spread through the jail system.
*Early intervention and re-education methods to disrupt IS recruiting and indoctrination.
*Multinational communications companies that are providing terrorist groups with the ability to avoid electronic surveillance by “going dark”.
Since Sydney’s 2014 Lindt Cafe siege where two hostages and the gunman died, police have restructured tactics, moving from relying on negotiators to the international method where a designated senior officer reviews the known facts and can order an immediate response.
In a second change, general duties police who would be the first on the scene are being trained in active-shooter tactics – which may mean taking immediate action rather than waiting for counter-terror police to arrive.
“In certain circumstances it is all about casualty reduction rather than seeking a peaceful resolution because negotiation doesn’t work with terrorists,” one senior policeman said.
Psychiatrists from the Netherlands and Canada, who specialise in identifying the key indicators of radicalisation in young people, will also provide confidential briefings.
“Our priority is early intervention,” Mr Guenther said.
Mr Beale said immediate access to intelligence was vital for counter-terror commanders at a siege. “You need to know the people you are dealing with. Some terrorists have no fear of dying and want to drag it out to get global media attention while others don’t want to die.”
He said senior police will need to continually train to remain up to date with the latest tactics. “It is about staying match fit.”
The French and Belgian experts say the accepted best practice is to initially attempt to negotiate although many terrorists plan to die with some using delaying tactics to lure police into an ambush.
The conference will discuss the role of prisons with some experts saying criminals who have already developed a hatred of police are susceptible to being radicalised. Some jurisdictions, including Victoria, spread convicted terrorists through the system while others house them in one maximum security division.
Keeping them in one facility, the conference will be told, allows the inmates to share tactics and reinforce their radical views, making them more dangerous on release.