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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Exclusive; Tarique Ghaffur Analyses Lahore Attacks

I have been sent a document written by Tarique Ghaffur, a 12-page analysis of the Lahore attacks which took place last week. Until recently, Tarique headed up the entire security operations for Britain's 2012 Olympics and was one of the Metropolitan Police's two most important chiefs. He is among the world's foremost experts on protecting and securing major cities from terrorist attacks and major emergencies, and now that he has set up his own company, he's going to be in demand all over the planet.

Tarique's paper is highly comprehensive and I am publishing some of his key findings, which he prefaces with the daunting observation that,

'despite the extensive global law enforcement effort, no country can consider itself immune to terrorist attack'

He sets out the background to last week's shootings in Pakistan;

'Pakistan is experiencing many ongoing and simultaneous violent fronts within its own borders that are extremely difficult to control.'

As we know, the political PPP/PML/N coalition has split, with some consequent political and operational manouevring...

'in the week before the attack, almost all the senior posts in Lahore City and Punjab provincial police were changed as President Zardari's PPP party took control of the province, apparently including the officer responsible for providing the security to the Sri Lankan team.'

Tarique picks up something overlooked by other analysts; that the sports convoy split into two at the point of departure.

'It would appear that at around 8.30am a convoy comprising the Sri Lankan players’ and umpires coaches, police jeeps, motorcycles and an ambulance, left the Pearl Intercontinental hotel for the 15-minute drive to the Gaddafi Stadium. It would also appear that the Pakistani players’ coach and convoy left at 8.35am on this day, unlike the previous two days when they had all travelled together in one convoy.'

'It was also clear that the security configuration appeared to be for an escort, i.e. facilitation through traffic, and not a protection configuration. When the convoy was split by the late departure of the Pakistan team, it appears that the escort was then divided between the two teams, thus potentially reducing any security afforded to both convoys. While there has been little or nothing revealed about the security of the Pakistan convoy, there has been much criticism about the dearth of security around the attacked Sri Lankan convoy. Proper ongoing risk assessment should have been used to determine the appropriate security requirements for each convey before either was allowed to move, not simply distributing the resources immediately available.'

Tarique highlights a feature possibly endemic in the Sub-Continent;

'Despite relatively large human resources, Pakistan police appear to be incapacitated by a lack of money, equipment and training. A Pakistani constable makes on average around $80 a month, compared with about $170 for a Taliban foot soldier.'

And though we have talked of similarities between the Mumbai bombings in 2008 and this latest attack, Tarique extracts this difference, while saying that the assailants were not as well prepared as they might have been.

'The fully armed attackers initially went up against totally unarmed civilians, (In Mumbai) until armed police were deployed to what had developed into a chaotic operating environment... The attack in Lahore was significantly different, in that the attackers went up against a specific small and single target passing through a well-established route, with predictable security in place around it. Additionally, this was not a suicide attack as the suspects clearly had an exit strategy which they successfully accomplished.'

'The attackers obviously had access to extensive firepower, but appeared inexperienced in its use, maybe through shortages of ammunition for training. The rocket launcher missed the target, as did the hand grenade. In addition, the Sri Lankan coach apparently had its windshield shattered and only 25 bullet holes after being held at the scene for around 90 seconds.'

'While the AK47 has a practical rate of fire of 90-100 rounds per minute firing single shots and 400 rounds per minute when fired in bursts, the magazine only holds 30 rounds. Therefore the rate of fire is dependent on how many of these heavy magazines each attacker was able to carry and their proficiency in using the weapons. While twelve attackers armed with AK47s could have laid down extensive fire power over 30 minutes, this does not appear to be the case.'

Regarding tactical training for protection deployment, Tarique has this to say;

'One of the first actions when a critical incident occurs is to secure the area and provide a security exclusion zone through armed and unarmed cordons, as appropriate. This provides the first visible representation that the security forces have taken control of the scene. It is my understanding that cordoning off the area took considerable time to put in place, if it ever went in effectively.'

'The next area of concern is around the secondary response to the incident. The apparent absence of any armed police deployments to the scene for the estimated 30 minute duration of the attack raises significant concerns around command and control of what had become a critical incident. In 30 minutes, resources could have been deployed from a number of miles away, let alone those engaged in outer cordons in the vicinity. Therefore it is difficult to understand what contingency arrangements had been put into place to take on an armed attack on the convoy. Through 30 minutes of attack not one attacker was shot, not one attacker seemed concerned about taking appropriate cover from any return fire and all the suspects left the scene unchallenged. There are clearly some critical operational lessons to be learnt from this tragic incident.'

This paper, which also covers the gold, silver and bronze types of command and control, as well as media handling in the event of a crisis, is not yet on general release and I have subbed it down to some core paragraphs. It makes fascinating reading, and its author, now free from the constraints of his previous high level position, is going to be of great value to those seeking to make areas under their jurisdiction, safer.

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