How is the 13 November 2015 Paris event similar to Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Mumbai attack, November 2008 ?

Mumbai 2008

Author: Richard Curzon

 The Mumbai terror attacks were a carefully planned paramilitary-intelligence operation where ten armed men paralysed India’s financial capital for 60 hours. Over 160 people – Indian nationals as well as 22 foreign nationals – were killed. This event has been widely described as “India’s 9/11”. The Mumbai attack differs from previous terror attacks by Al Qaeda and other groups in that multiple assault teams attacking multiple targets simultaneously in a major city outside of a war zone, had not been used. It announced Lashkar-e-Taiba’s emergence as a major terrorist organisation on the world stage.

Event Map

Mumbai 2008

(Image courtesy Global Research Centre for Research on Globalization November 2008)

In October 2008, Mr Ratan Tata Chairman of India’s TATA Group and owner of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, was warned by United States intelligence agencies that a terrorist attack on the hotel, was likely.

On 18 November 2008, Indian intelligence agencies intercepted a satellite phone call to a leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organisation. It revealed plans for a sea borne attack on Mumbai.

Preparation for this terrorist event commenced at least two years prior to its execution. Initially planned to take place in late September of 2008 but postponed due to incomplete arrangements, planning was underway in 2006.

A number of targets were not included until a month before the attack.

Those who carried out the Mumbai event trained for over 18 months at four different locations in Pakistan prior to the attack.

The following is an event timeline summary of the terrorist group departure from Karachi, Pakistan, their entry into India and the first attacks on Mumbai.

On the evening of 21 November 2008 ten terrorists boarded a fishing trawler Kuber in Karachi, Pakistan. They would travel for thirty-eight hours towards the coast of Maharashtra India and remain undetected by both the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. The Kuber, an Indian fishing trawler, was boarded and is suspected of being involved in the attacks. The Kuber had been hijacked on 13 November 2008 and its captain later murdered. Indian officials suspect that the Pakistan Marine Agency helped the terrorists hijack the trawler.

22 November 2008 the ten men were each given

  • 7 magazines of thirty rounds of ammunition
  • 400 rounds (additional) not loaded in magazines,
  • 8 hand grenades
  • 1 AK-47 assault rifle
  • 1 automatic loading revolver
  • Credit cards
  • Supply of dried fruit.

Wednesday 26 November 2008 at dusk, the terrorist group reached within four nautical miles (7 kilometres) of Mumbai. After executing the captain of the Kuber, they boarded three inflatable speedboats and proceeded towards the Colaba Jetty on the shore of Mumbai.

2010 – the first boat carrying ten of the group docked at Macchinar Nagar in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade neighbourhood. Carrying several large bags, six of the men disembark. The remainder continue in the inflatable boat along the shore.

2030 – at Colaba the remaining men come ashore at Badhwar Park, Cuffe Parade. The group split up and headed in separate directions. The terrorists moved north and attacked the Colaba police station, possibly as a single unit. From the Colaba police station, the assault

force broke into smaller teams for secondary targets throughout Mumbai. At least one police van was hijacked. The terrorists then drove throughout Mumbai firing automatic weapons at random targets.

2100 – two terrorists attack the Leopold Café. Ten people were killed and many injured. The terrorists then plant bombs in two taxis, killing five people and wounding fifteen.

2115 – four men enter the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, two enter Nariman House and another two, Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail, take taxis to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal. The Terminal handles thousands of passengers each day.

2120 – Ajmal and Ismail enter the passenger hall of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal railway station. Shooting from their AK-47 assault rifles and throwing hand grenades they kill 52 people and injure 109.

2230 – Ajmal and Ismail proceed to the Cama Hospital. Medical staff notice their approach and lock all of the patient’s rooms. The two men reach the Hospital and again open fire. Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) Chief Hemant Karkare attempts to chase them in a jeep but is gunned down with three of his men. The terrorists then hijack the jeep but are intercepted by a Gamdevi police team near the pedestrian bridge at Girgaum Chowpatty. Ismail is killed. Kasab is arrested.

Thursday 27 November soon after midnight, armed men attack Vidhan Sabha, the Legislative Assembly and lower house of state legislature in India.

The following is an event timeline of the terrorist group’s attack on the Taj Mahal Palace and the Tower Hotel.

Wednesday 26 November 2008 at 2300 four terrorists enter and begin shooting in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. 450 people are staying here.

Thursday 27 November 2008 at 0010 Mumbai Police surround the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Soon after a massive blast takes place in the central dome of the hotel.

0230 Indian Army soldiers arrive in two trucks and enter the front lobby of the hotel. Fire spreads across the top floor of the hotel.

0300 fire engines arrive as shooting is heard inside the lobby and the heritage building.

0400 firemen with ladders, rescue more than 200 people.

0430 the terrorists move from the central dome to the new tower.

0500 commandos and police increase the intensity of their counter effort.

0530 the fire is brought under control. However, 150 hostages have been taken in the new tower. Security forces report that they are ready to commence counter terrorism action as the Government provides approval to storm the hotel.

0800 hotel guests and staff are moved from the hotel. 50 people are evacuated from the Chambers Club.

0900 more rounds of firing are heard. More people remain inside the hotel. A gun battle between the terrorists and security forces ensues inside the hotel. Soon after, 50 people are evacuated.

1630 terrorists set fire to a room on the 4th floor of the hotel.

1920 National Security Guards (NSG) and Commandos enter the hotel.

Friday 28 November 2008 between 1453 and 1559, six bodies are recovered. A series of explosions are heard.

1500 Marine Commandos recover fifteen bodies.

1930 new explosions and gun shots are heard.

2030 there is a report that one terrorist remains inside.

Saturday 29 November 2008 between 0340 and 0410 five explosions are heard inside.

0420 the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is reported to be completely under Government control.

0505, a revised report confirms one terrorist remains inside the hotel.

0730 fire is visible on the first floor and smoke on the second floor. The remaining terrorist and Indian security forces exchange gun fire.

0800 Indian Commandos report that the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is now under control of security forces. Room to room searches continue. Hotel guests and employees still be hidden, are rescued.

At the Oberoi Trident Hotel, the following events took place.

Thursday 27 November 2008 at 0600 the National Security Guards storm the hotel.

0840 amidst gunfire, Indian Army and Navy officers arrive.

1330 additional security reinforcements enter the building.

1525 a number of foreign national hostages are rescued.

1735 the Indian Army’s Sikh Regiments arrives.

1800 – 27 hostages exit the Air India building. Four foreign national citizens are taken to hospital.

1845 an explosion is heard. Two National Security Guard’s and twenty-five army personnel are reported injured. An additional 31 people are rescued.

1925 fire breaks out on the 4th floor.

1000 more hostages are evacuated from the Oberoi Trident Hotel.

Friday 28 November 2008 at 1500 Commando operations at the Oberoi rescue 143 hostages however, 24 bodies are recovered. Among these are two terrorists who were shot dead during the gun battle at 1735 the previous day.

At Nariman House, the Jewish Chabad Lubavitch Outreach Centre, the following events took place.

Thursday 27 November 2008 at 0700 police begin evacuating adjacent buildings.

1100 cross firing between terrorists and police commences. One terrorist is injured.

1445 terrorists throw hand grenades into a nearby lane. No casualties are reported following the explosion.

1730 NSG personnel arrive as a Navy helicopter undertakes aerial surveillance.

Friday 28 November 2008 at 0730 NSG Commandos are rapelled from helicopters to the roof of Nariman House. Nine hostages are rescued from the first floor.

1930 NSG Commandos find dead all six Nariman House hostages.

2030 in a fierce gun battle, NSG Commandos find and kill the remaining two terrorists. The operation is then declared over.

The Perpetrators

The seaborne attack on the City of Mumbai was carried out by ten armed members of the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure). Involved were Ismael Khan (the group leader) Hafiz Arshad, Javed, Abu Shoaib, Abu Umer, Abdul Rehman, Fahadullah, Baba Imran, Nasir and Ajmal Amir Kasab.

In Pakistan an additional three men – Abu Kaahfa, Wassi and Zarar – provided handling prior to the departure of the ten key attackers. Wassi was identified as the key handler.

On Wednesday 26 November 2008, early claims that the Deccan Mujahideen and the Indian Mujahideen had been the perpetrators proved to be unfounded.

Mumbai Police later reported that Ajmal Amir Kasab who was captured alive and arrested by Mumbai Police had confessed to belonging to LeT. The remaining nine members of the group that attacked Mumbai were killed during the 60 hours encounter.

LeT is one the oldest and most powerful jihadi groups in Pakistan. It is classified as a nationalist, separatist and a religious group.

Appearing in 1990 in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, it was intended as the militant wing of Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI).  In 1986, MDI was created by Hafiz Saeed, Zafaq Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Makki and Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.  It was established as an Islamic fundamentalist organisation fighting the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

MDI´s ideology is guided by the Ahl Al-Hadith School of Saudi Wahhabism.

Following the withdrawal of Russia from Afghanistan, LeT focused on the India Pakistan conflict in Kashmir with the objective of uniting the whole of Kashmir with Pakistan and create an environment where India becomes a Pan Islamic Caliphate.

India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) determined that LeT has liaison and networking activities in about twenty-one countries worldwide.

These activities include

  • Fundraising
  • Facilitation of terrorist acts by third parties
  • Procurement of weapons and explosives
  • Recruitment of volunteers for suicide missions
  • Creation of sleeper cells
  • Initiation of armed conflict

Evidence gathered by India suggests that LeT did not act alone citing evidence that Pakistan’s ISI assisted with the planning and financing of the Mumbai assault.

Although denied by the Government of Pakistan, statements in 2010 supporting this theory were made by Pakistan/American David Headley, who admitted to participating in the planning of the attacks.

Targeting, Tactics and Rationale

As a symbol of financial success in South Asia and of developing India, Mumbai presented an ideal target.  It provided perfect venues for killing as many Westerners, Jews and Indian citizens as possible. The psychological effect of an attack on foreigners, guaranteed international media coverage.

Some targets were part of the initial operating plan. Others were added as the attack unfolded.

The attack consisted of armed assaults on civillians, car-jackings, drive-by shootings, prefabricated IEDs, targeted killings, occupation of buildings and a number of hostage situations.

By dividing into small groups, the terrorists created an impression that there were a greater number of attackers.  Individuals in the terrorist group used cellular and satellite telephones to communicate with handlers in Pakistan.  This provided them with real time warnings, tactical advice and information broadcast by electronic media in Mumbai and throughout the world.

The primary rationale of the attack may have been to increase tension between India and Pakistan and a halting of the peace-process.  A peace with India would be contrary to LeT ideology. More importantly, it would render LeT irrelevant for Pakistan authorities.

As American and Israeli Jews were targeted at Nariman House, a secondary rationale may have been to elevate the Kashmir conflict to a platform of global jihad and the group’s credentials among jihadists.

LeT has a history of deploying small numbers of attackers who storms a target or targets with the aim of causing as much destruction and death as possible until they attain martyrdom.

The Resultant Impact

The impact of the attack has multiple dimensions.  Over a period of 60 hours, 166 people were killed and many hundreds more were injured (Azad and Gupta 2011, Tankel 2011).  The death toll included 30 non-Indians – 6 Americans and 6 Jews.

The attacks provided continuous print and electronic media coverage and as a result have had a profound and enduring effect on the population in Indian and its Government.

While there is no certainty that LeT intended the siege to continue for as long as it did, there is no question that the extended worldwide exposure delivered international attention to LeT and its objectives.

This exposure may have resulted in an increasing number of followers and sympathisers.   Certainly it will have invited scrutiny of international intelligence communities. Of note is the impact on the relationship between Pakistan and India. Pakistan authorities

have allowed LeT to operate in Pakistan, and in so doing had provided an environment to prepare for the attacks.

The event succeeded in increasing tensions between India and Pakistan, even though it did not lead to direct armed conflict.

The event has caused a rejuvenation of India´s counter-terrorism preparedness with the addition of 7,000 new police officers, increased investment in technology and a review of anti-terrorism legislation.


Although LeT has never claimed responsibility for the Mumbai attack, the judge’s verdict confirms there is sufficient evidence it had planned and carried out the attack.

LeT’s objective is to have India withdraw from Kashmir and create a Pan-Islamic Caliphate in India. The pre attack surveillance of location targets, the comprehensive intelligence preparation and the enduring paramilitary like execution clearly indicates that a well organised and structured terrorist organisation had carried out the attack. These are traits of the LeT terrorist modus operandi.

Since 2004 LeT has been responsible for over 100 terrorist events and the killing of more than 700 people worldwide. It is now recognized amongst the world´s deadliest terrorist groups.

Conclusively, it remains futile to think that provocation which results in active conflict or war between Pakistan and India – by attacking India and Indian interests – will compel India to withdraw from Kashmir and create an environment where there is Islamic rule over India.  That both nations have nuclear weapons reduces the likelihood of an Indian military reaction.

Brief Analysis: Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Strategies and Plans

CT Vigilant

Author: Richard Curzon

This paper provides a description of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy as published in 2012.

It describes the role of the Australian Federal Police and the integration with police services in states and territories of Australia.

The processes through which the management of intelligence takes place is explained.

Through assessment and analyses, this paper provides an evaluation of the effectiveness of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Plans and Policies and offers a comparison with the counterterrorism plans of two other countries.

Areas of concern that appear to have been overlooked are highlighted. An assessment of the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy’s performance with respect to Australia’s most recent terrorism event in Sydney on 15-16 December 2014 is presented.

Background and History

Australia has known acts of modern terrorism since the 1960s. In the decade of the 1970s, the Federal Parliament enacted legislation seeking to specifically target terrorism and define it as “an action or threat of action where the action causes certain defined forms of harm or interference and the action is done or the threat is made with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”.

In a government publication, transnational terrorism in particular is identified as a threat to Australia, driven by radical Islam.

In Australia, there have been a number of terrorist events before 11 September 2001.

• 1915 – politically / religiously motivated killings at Broken Hill in New South Wales.
• 1972 – bombing of the Yugoslav General Trade Agency in Sydney.
• 1978 – bombing of the Sydney Hilton hotel during a Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional
• 1980 – assassination of the Turkish Consul-General in Sydney.
• 1982 – bombing of the Israeli Consulate and the Hakoah Soccer Club in Sydney.
• 1986 – bombing of the Russell Street Police Station in Melbourne.
• 1986 – bombing at the Turkish Consulate in Melbourne.

On 15 December 2014, two hostages and a lone gunman were killed when the gunman – a self-styled Iranian cleric – entered the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney’s Martin Place.

This siege event continued for over 17 hours and concluded at about 0230 on 16 December 2014.

For the earlier terrorism events of the 70s and 80s it could be argued they were successfully executed because there had been little or no integration of all agencies of the Australian intelligence community and the absence of a national counter terrorism plan.

In January 2008, Dr. Rohan Gunaratan, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore warned that a “New crop of home-grown jihadis, groomed to step up and replace the leaders of Australian terror cells who have been arrested or jailed, is almost “mature” enough to launch an operation”.

On 21 October 2010, the Prime Minister of Australia and the Attorney General opened the Australian Government’s Counter Terrorism Control Centre (CTCC). The CTCC is hosted by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), with representatives from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).

National Counter Terrorism Plan 2012

In 2012 with the intention of continuing to ensure that Australia’s ability to respond to terrorism remains robust and that national and state police and security and intelligence agencies are appropriately resourced and in a state of constant preparedness, the Government announced the National Counter-Terrorism Plan (NCTP).

The National Counter-Terrorism Plan (NCTP) sets out Australia’s strategic approach to preventing, and dealing with, acts of terrorism in Australia and its territories. It is the primary document on Australia’s national counter-terrorism policy and arrangements.

Of significant note is a statement that NCTP does not cover arrangements that deal with terrorist acts overseas involving Australians or Australian interests.

The NCTP is a document of twenty-seven pages that articulates Australia’s strategic approach to terrorism. It emphasizes the need to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from, an act of terrorism. It uses the letters PPRR to highlight the key words message.

This paper refers to these NCTP elements as pillars.

The first pillar of preparedness refers to the process of planning, resourcing and testing to ensure governments, agencies and the community are best able to prevent or deal with the impacts of a terrorist act. The NCTP recognises that the need for interoperability between agencies and jurisdictions is vitally important.

Consequently, plans must be consistent, complementary and coordinated. Central to the criminal regime is a clear definition of a terrorist act as an action or threat intended to advance a political, ideological or religious cause by coercing or intimidating an Australian or foreign government or the public, by causing serious harm to people or property, endangering life, creating a serious risk to the health and safety of the public or seriously disrupting trade, critical infrastructure or electronic systems.

The NCTP details relevant responsibilities and roles in the pillar for preparedness.
• The Commonwealth Government
• National Crisis Committee (NCC)
• Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre (CCC),
• Police Coordination – between all Commissioners of Police – Emergency Management Coordination
• Health Coordination
• Transport Security Coordination
• Security Intelligence – coordinated by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO,
• Commonwealth Government Coordination
• National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC) – chaired by the Prime Minister
• Secretaries Committee on National Security (SCNS)
• National Security Adviser (NSA)
• Australian Government Crisis Committee (AGCC)
• Interdepartmental Emergency Task Force (IDETF)
• Australian Government Disaster Recovery Committee (AGDRC)
• National Security Policy Coordination Group (NSPCG)
• International Development (AusAID)
• Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS)
• Australian Crime Commission (ACC)
• Australian Federal Police (AFP)
• AGD, ASIO, DFAT, Defence
• Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)
• Department of Infrastructure and Transport (DoIT)
• Prime Minister & Cabinet
• Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF)

The NCTP strategy includes the National Terrorism Public Alert System which consists of the following four stages.

1. Low – a terrorist attack is not expected.
2. Medium – a terrorist attack could occur.
3. High – a terrorist attack is likely.
4. Extreme – a terrorist attack is imminent or has occurred.

Prevention refers to measures taken to eliminate or reduce the occurrence or severity of a terrorist act. It includes the establishment of a strong Australian community that resists the development of homegrown terrorism and violent extremism within Australia.

The salient areas of Australia’s NCTP with respect to prevention measures include the following.

• Intelligence – In an evolving and increasingly complex national security environment, the need for timely and accurate intelligence to inform responses to challenges will increase. Intelligence is collected and developed by agencies across the Australian national security community including the Australian Intelligence Community and the Federal, State and Territory Police.
• The National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC)
• The Counter-Terrorism Control Centre (CTCC)
• Threat Assessment Centre (NTAC)
• Criminal Investigation
• Protection of the Community
• Public Awareness
• Border Control
• Transport Security
• Aviation – The Aviation Transport Security Act (2004) and the Transport Security Program (TSP)
• Maritime
• Surface Transport
• Dignitary and Foreign Mission Protection
• Business and Community
• Awareness and Vigilance
• Maintaining Flow of Information
• Countering Violent Extremism
• Protecting of Australia’s Major Events
• Critical Infrastructure Protection
• Cyber Security

At selected airports the Australian Federal Police (AFP) provide initial response pending State or Territory Police attendance. The AFP also operates the Air Security Officer program, which places officers on selected flights to counter terrorist threats. Relevant airport operators maintain Airport Security Incident Support Teams to provide logistical assistance to Police Commanders. To facilitate support to State and Territory Police, the AFP has in place Regional Rapid Deployment Teams (RRDT).
The Australian Federal Police and State and Territory Police Services share responsibility for the security of Australian high office holders, diplomatic and consular officials, visiting dignitaries, internationally protected persons and other individuals assessed to be at risk.

The third pillar of the NCTP is response.

This refers to actions taken immediately to prevent or minimise loss of life, injury, damage to property and damage or disruption to infrastructure. It includes investigations into the terrorist act, the prosecution of offenders and ensuring that people affected by the threat or act are given immediate relief and support. Response includes operational arrangements in which State and Federal Police will respond to any incidents and where there is a reasonable suspicion that the incident is terrorism related, the state, territory or federal police will assume control and notify the CCC.

The following are elements of the NCTP with respect to response.

Operational Arrangements – Police Commanders will consider the requirements of recovery support agencies. ASIO and the AFP provide a Commonwealth Technical Response Capability (CTRC) to support forward police and ADF commanders by providing specialist technical surveillance collection at the scene of a terrorist incident.

Response further includes

• Coordination arrangements between State, Territory and the Commonwealth Government.
• Media Liaison.
• Postal Security.
• Chemical Biological and Nuclear Threats.
• Explosive devices.

Immediate relief and support to those most affected. This provides a transition to the next phase in the NCTP – that of recovery.

The fourth pillar of the NCTP lists recovery. It is the coordinated process of supporting affected communities in reconstruction of the physical infrastructure and restoration of psychological, social, economic, environmental and physical wellbeing in keeping with the National Principles for Disaster Recovery.

Recovery phase also includes the following.
• Roles and Responsibilities – of State and Territory Governments with Commonwealth Government
• Operational Coordination Arrangements
• Commonwealth Government Level Resources
• State/Territory Level responsible agencies
• Regional/District/ Local Level responsibilities
• Key Considerations – transitional arrangements from response to recovery.


Australia’s policy is, wherever possible, to resolve terrorist acts through negotiation to minimise the risk to life. Australia will not make concessions in response to terrorist demands. Police will maintain a cadre of trained negotiators and a containment and deliberate/emergency action capability. Defence also maintains containment and deliberate/emergency action capability.
When assessing and analysing Australia’s National Counter Terrorism Plan, it is useful to compare its effectiveness with the counter terror strategies of other countries. The United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy is known as CONTEST.

CONTEST was developed by the Home Office in early 2003. Since then there have been a number of revisions, the most recent in March 2013. The revised version of CONTEST places more focus on prevention and the means by which to best alert the public of a terrorist threat.

Similar to Australia’s NCTP 3rd Edition 2012, CONTEST is split into four work streams that are known within the counter-terrorism community as the ‘four P’s’.

These are Prevent, Pursue, Protect, and Prepare.

Prevent sets out to stop people from supporting terrorism or becoming a perpetrator.
Pursue is to stop by detecting, prosecuting and disrupting those who may plot to carry out an act of terrorism against the UK or its interest overseas or abroad.
Protect sets out to strengthen protection against a terrorist attack against the UK or its overseas interest and so reduce its vulnerability.
Prepare is to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack where that attack cannot be stopped.

Australia’s National Counter Terrorism Plan 3rd Edition 2012 compares favourably with CONTEST in that it comprehensively addresses the same international and domestic issues presented by terrorism.

Within the Asia Pacific region it is useful to compare Australia’s strategy to that of India.

Two years after the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) was first conceived in 2010 and following the Mumbai 2008 terror strikes and three months after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) gave
its approval for its establishment, Chief Ministers have virtually vetoed the NCTC on the grounds that its functioning will undermine the federal structure of India’s Constitution and that it must not be placed under the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

India’s NCTC had been envisaged as an umbrella organization empowered to conduct counter-terrorism operations like its US Counterpart. Without an effective NCTC, the planning and execution of India’s counter-terrorism policies remain mired in systemic weaknesses. There is a gross disconnect between how the Central and State Governments view counter terrorism.

By comparison, Australia’s National Counter Terrorism Plan 3rd Edition 2012 has been accepted by all levels of government and implemented and then tested at the time of a terrorism event on 15 December 2014.

The spectre of terror hitting Australian soil seemed to many a fanciful idea. Government passed legislation to stop Australian born Muslim men from leaving to board flights to Syria and Afghanistan.

But were our politicians and the security authorities too focused on this and not on keeping in check the unstable, disaffected lone wolf, attaching personal grievance to a political cause?

Retiring ASIO Chief David Irvine warned that a terrorist attack in Australia was highly likely. Irvine said it could be a Bali-style bombing or an attack by a loner.

Former Senior Defence Officer, Peter Jennings, who heads the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank and the advisory team for the Government’s Defence White Paper, stated that in an open society like Australia it will never be possible to stop people self-radicalising. The self-radicalised lone wolf will remain very hard to counter as there can never be 100 per cent security. There is a need for an increased focus on policing rather than at the national intelligence level.

Since 2001, Australian intelligence agencies have prevented several terrorist attacks in any Australian city. Thirty eight people have been prosecuted under the Australian Criminal Code Act on terrorism-related charges in the post-9/11 era.

When considering areas of Australia’s NCTP that have been omitted or components that have not been addressed, it will be useful to know the degree to which strategic intelligence and tactical intelligence were used ahead of the terrorist event in Sydney, 15 December 2014. If there was a counter terrorism failure, was it a failure of intelligence or a failure to act on intelligence? Failures can be traced to a failure to act on long-term warnings or strategic intelligence.

Considering this postulation, was there a gap between the expectations of decision-makers and the capabilities of strategic intelligence agencies and poor responsiveness on the part of the decision makers (intelligence consumers), which created a knowledge vacuum between strategic intelligence and short term or tactical intelligence?

In Silent Warfare, Abram Shusky and Gary Schmidt argue an intelligence failure is essentially a misunderstanding of the situation that leads a government (or its security forces) to take actions that are inappropriate and counterproductive to its own interests.

Following the “Sydney siege event” questions now emerge concerning the lessons learned for Australia’s policymakers?

Till recently the NSW Police response had been considered impressive. The siege area was isolated and an evacuation of a section of the Central Business District was calmly managed.

Public Communication was handled at an appropriate level.

The National Security Committee quickly moved to a response footing with a focus on crisis management. The government’s response had been calm and proportionate. The decision made in September to elevate the terrorism threat level to “high” appears to have been justified.

However, a consistent and concentrated effort must be directed to make sure schools, mental health institutions and police and intelligence agencies are geared to respond early to signs of the lone-wolf pathology emerging in the behaviour of individuals.


NOTE: In 2015 the Australian Government revised the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy 2012 and issued two additional reviews which addressed the Commonwealth’s counter-terrorism arrangements.
The Review of Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Machinery and Australia’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Strengthening Our Resilience were published in 2015.

Aviation Security: Singapore’s Changi International Airport

Changi airport image

Author: Richard Curzon

Singapore’s Changi International Airport has been voted by air travellers as the World’s Best Airport for the second year in a row, at the 2014 World Airport Awards.

It is unique in that it is a hub in South East Asia for connections from Europe and the Middle East to Oceania, East Asia and to the Americas. It is also a target for terrorism by South East Asia Islamist extremists group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Away from the spotlight of seamless and efficient travel with duty-free shopping and attentive service, key public and private agencies work closely together to continuously review, adapt and deliver a
robust and efficient security system at the Changi International Airport.

To ensure that the airport’s security is aligned with international standards, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) adapts the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) global Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) on aviation security. It involves the formulation of policies, regulations and emergency preparedness plans, as well as the implementation of security measures and frontline operations.

Four organisations collaborate in the aviation security effort.
The Airport Police Division (APD) as the state authority leads in all aviation security matters.
The other three are;
1. Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the aviation industry authority and regulatory body.
2. Changi Airport Group (CAG) the airport operator licensee responsible for implementing all required security measures at Changi Airport.

3. Certis CISCO (Certis), the auxiliary police responsible for the day-to-day running of airport security operations.

The National Civil Aviation Security Committee (NCASC), oversees the efforts of these four organisations.

The total size of the Changi International Airport is 1,300 hectares. Terminal 1 of the Changi International Airport was opened in 1981. Terminal 2 followed in 1990 and in 2008 Terminal 3 was opened.

Annually, over 53 million passengers pass through the airport with 6,500 flight departures each week to some 300 cities in 70 countries and territories throughout the world.

In 2013 Changi’s annual air transport movements reached 343,765 with a daily average of 1,057 air transport movements. The busiest day ever recorded at the Changi International Airport for passenger arrivals and departures was 191,819 on 21 December 2013. The number of Changi Airport Group (CAG) employees is approximately 1,500 with the total number of staff engaged with Changi Airport service providers numbering 32,000.

Procedures and Equipment Available to Counter Aviation Terrorism

All operations at the Changi International Airport are aligned with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

These measures were introduced following the reported United Kingdom (UK) aviation terror plot in August 2006. 

Though there is currently no specific threat against civil aviation in Singapore as of November 2014, the ICAO procedures underline the reality and continuation of the global terrorist threat.

Changi International Airport security depends on four levels of security.

1. The public area
2. The transit area
3. The air site
4. The airport perimeter

Security becomes tighter as the traveller moves closer towards airside and the aircraft. A new security initiative is the Threat-Oriented Passenger Screening Integrated System (TOPSIS) that trains non-security communities to identify anyone or anything

unusual. The TOPSIS encourages everyone who works for the airport to play a role in being alert to persons or objects that may be a potential threat in or around the airport as they are the ones who interact with the passengers and airport visitors.

To integrate all procedures, Changi International Airport employs Certis, an elaborate computer system at its onsite CISCO Aviation Security Integrated Operations Centre (CIOC), which centralises planning, command and control over all of Certis’ armed auxiliary police officers and security screening officers. It also keeps track of all flights through the integration of various technologies. This is essential in keeping track of Certis personnel who are responsible for several tasks such as guarding entrances and checkpoints at all
terminals and in the cargo complex, as well as screening passengers and cargo before they board the aircraft. Data from the airport’s Flight Information Display System (FLIDS) is fed into the Certis
system to allow CIOC to deploy its resources and disseminate information quickly and readily. Certis officers monitor 2,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in boarding and transit areas.

Hand-carried luggage require that liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) must be in containers with a maximum capacity of not more than 100ml each. Liquids, aerosols and gels in containers larger than
100ml will not be accepted, even if the container is only partially filled. Items are subject to additional checks at the security screening point.

Developments in Aviation Security After the 9/11 Attacks

Since September 2001, two critical questions have emerged.

How has the terrorist threat to commercial aviation and airports evolved since 9/11 and how have actions by governments and the operators of airports around the world worked to mitigate this threat?

A number of Al-Qaeda-affiliated plots have sought to target commercial aviation since 9/11. One was an operations plot by Islamist extremists in 2002 to hijack an airliner and crash it into Changi International Airport in Singapore.

Changi International Airport uses Rapiscan Secure 1000 X-Ray technology to penetrate beneath the surface of objects and IonScan Sentinel II, an explosive trace detection device that uncovers minute trace elements of explosives. The airport is currently assessing the use of body scanners.

For air cargo, Keok Tong San, Commander of Changi’s Airport Police Division (APD) states that the airport has introduced technologies that detect nitrogen, an important component of explosives, and has deployed the police K9 unit to detect explosives hidden in cargo. Consignments of cargo transported on commercial passenger aircraft are screened before being loaded onto aircraft under the Regulated Air Cargo Agent Regime introduced to Singapore in April 2008. Patrols are carried out around the airport’s 22km perimeter.

On terminal buildings, the CAG has built a structural hardening framework in bollards and enhanced glazing with anti shatter film and a cable catcher system. The system, together with glass coated with an anti-shatter film, protect passengers, airport workers and assets from any Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device

(VBIED). Surrounding the airport is a 22 kilometres double layered perimeter fence known as a Perimeter Intrusion System (PIS), alerting operators to track any form of trespass into the airport’s precinct.

Identity and document checks by officers of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) are conducted thoroughly. Since May 2008, the ICA has leveraged on the Mobile INTERPOL Network Database to scrutinise passports against INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database. Suspicious travellers who may have been found to be on a Movement Alert List (MAL) are subjected to enhanced screening and further interviewing.

Hand carried luggage is screened by x-ray before a passenger
proceeds to the immigration check-point desk. Suspicious travellers identified by “on patrol” immigration officers, are asked to complete
a mobile finger print scan and participate in a secondary interview.
At immigration desks, face-to-face checks, passport validity and database comparisons are completed before “flapper gates” are
opened to allow passengers to enter the airport’s transit area or “airside”.

All luggage, which includes hand carry bags arriving in Singapore and transferring to another aircraft undergoes a 100 per cent Hold Baggage Screening System (HBSS).


Singapore’s Changi International Airport has progressively implemented aviation security measures restricting passengers’ baggage items and handling unattended bags in accordance with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The airport is cited as one of the world’s most proactive airports at initiating security arrangements inside and outside its perimeter with the employment of security equipment, such as conventional x-ray, video systems and Electronic Data Systems (EDS).

The airport is alert to the possibility of an “insider threat” which may become markedly worse at non-Western airport regions where there are poorly structured terrorist profiles and incomplete criminal intelligence databases.

Man-portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) and Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) have been described as a possible threat to commercial aviation in Singapore. Commercial aircraft would become vulnerable for several miles while ascending and descending, particularly due to their lack of countermeasure systems.

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can be concealed internally either by the surgically implanting devices in a would-be suicide bomber or by the simpler route of secreting the device within a body cavity. Commercial airline’s information technology systems, which handle critical functions such as reservations, crew check-in, flight control centres, meteorology and emergency management functions may soon be the targets of terrorists.

The trend toward attacking airports rather than aircraft has likely been driven by increased checkpoint screening measures and terrorists’ growing emphasis on decentralized, small-scale attacks on targets of opportunity.

Analysis of the airport’s security system and identification of loopholes

It is fair to conclude that the Changi International Airport has shown that it has current international best practices in place to detect, prevent and deter an aviation terrorist event.

In 2004 Changi International Airport introduced FAST Fully Automated Seamless Travel. The FAST process is based on a biometrics technology that integrates three processes. These processes incorporate airline check-in, pre-immigration security checks and immigration clearance. As a result Changi International Airport has improved security and considerably reduced passenger identification errors.

However, some recent incidents in 2014 have raised questions about the airport’s ability to prevent and mitigate damage in the event of similar incidents. In June 2014, security forces engaged in a gun battle with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists inside the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.

In preventing a similar attack on the Changi International Airport, the integrity of the airport’s perimeter should be considered in addition to the ability for intending terrorists to obtain identity credentials that would have them recognized as authorized personnel.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has exposed serious security gaps and loopholes in the international aviation system. While not the original responsibility of Singapore, (it was the responsibility of Malaysia) if MH370 had been hijacked, the aircraft could have been crashed into a highly populated civilian retail and tourist location such as Orchard Road in Singapore, into one of Singapore’s high rise buildings or into the terminal structures of Changi International Airport itself.

Professor Rohan Gunaratna, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Singapore has stated that any country that loses sight or contact with one of its aircraft is obliged to alert other countries. Professor Gunaratna had asked if this was done when MH370 went missing.

Dr. Bilveer Singh, a senior adjunct fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security, Singapore has asked the question “Was Singapore alerted to the missing plane? Considering the use of aircraft as weapons to attack iconic targets, it should become mandatory for those responsible for tracking airlines to inform their governments and neighbouring governments. Did Malaysia inform Singapore when MH370 went missing?”

While it is possible that Singapore could mobilize its air force and proceed to take protective measures to minimize the consequences of such an attack, it is unlikely that the airport precinct could be completely evacuated of thousands of travellers, employees and airport visitors before the impact of a terrorist event of this nature.

Mr. Doron Bergerbest-Elion, a former senior Israeli counter-terrorism and aviation security officer in the Israel Security Agency believes that there needs to be a regular vetting and updating of profiles of flight deck crew and cabin crew and that the scrutinizing process must be strengthened to detect human resource changes that may pose a risk.

The following is a list of threats that require mitigation action.
• Terrorists could check-in baggage at a low security airport in South East Asia. The baggage could be detonated upon arrival at Changi International Airport.
• Detonation off explosives in airport terminal.
• Adding explosives to fuel.
• Inserting explosives in aircraft spare parts for installation during maintenance.
• Hiding light aircraft in low security airports for later use as missiles.
• Poisoning of pilots by a hired crew member.
• Disguising chemical and bacteriological weapons as medicine with a prescription.
• Chemically eliminating traces of explosives.
• Galvanised containers against true content detection.

Suggested measures that will strengthen the airport’s security system

Changi International Airport must continue the timely collection and exploitation of intelligence as the most effective means of intercepting terrorist threats to aviation.

Singapore’s aviation security regulators should consider increasing their liaison with the airline industry regarding the development of risk mitigation strategies. Airlines are far more aware of the vulnerabilities inherent to commercial aviation, as well as the practical constraints on proposed security measures.

Where necessary the Government of Singapore should consider providing human, material and financial resources to support airlines attempting to improve security for their overseas operations.

Basic security procedures, relevant to the operation of Changi International Airport must continue to be applied. Aviation security warnings must be understood and be clearly visible as vital public information.

It is imperative that all partners and stakeholders in the Changi International Airport’s operation and aviation security in general, enjoy an effective working relationship with the print and electronic media.

There must be experienced negotiators available in the event of a terrorist incident. It is essential that there is seamless cooperation with the Singapore military.

The level of preparation necessary to implement these measures.

The Government of Singapore has clearly taken a lead role in the coordination and implementation of effective aviation security practices at the Changi International Airport. A large scale terrorist attack would put at risk the country’s economic freedom and reputation which is rated as second highest in the world.

The Government has demonstrated it will endeavor to preserve this by continuing to maintain a position of leadership and preparedness against aviation terrorism, on par with aviation safety levels in Europe, through appropriate policies and support in financial, material and human resources.

As stated in academic research by Hainmuller and Lemnitzer, “Why do Europeans Fly Safer? The Politics of Airport Security in Europe and the US”, institutional factors can contribute to a variation in

performance factors with respect to aviation security regimes. Research has shown that where responsibility of airport security has been delegated to government, a satisfactory performance has been the result over and above the performance of airline companies where cost cutting measures have produced poor performance.

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