Flawed Security Circles

Avi Kapon, former head of the IDF Lotar unit, discusses the course of action that the Kenyan security layout could have taken to minimize the scope of casualties in the terrorist attack that occurred

When observing the events in Kenya occurring in the past few days, a sense of relief is felt when living in countries such as Israel, which invests considerably in protective and rapid intervention forces.

The sights from Kenya greatly resemble the terror attack that took place in Mumbai - chaos, confusion, untrained forces (compared to Israel and other Western countries), and a large number of casualties as a result.

When the situation in Kenya is examined at this time, several key points should be considered. Firstly, with regards to preliminary security - a country that is under the threat of terror must take care to regularly secure crowded locations. The security should consist of several circles, and is divided into armed and unarmed security.

The presence of the security forces greatly influences the ability to deal with attacks such as the one that has occurred in Kenya, which has thus far resulted in the deaths of several dozen people. A situation should be considered in which such a security layout would have noticed the gathering of armed men moving towards the mall in advance, or alternatively an incursion attempt of attackers. In such a scenario, it would be possible to direct the crowd in the mall to the direction opposite the one from which the terrorists entered, while creating significant combat at the same time from various directions, with various weapons - thus considerably decreasing the potential success of the terror attack. An aggressive operation by security forces present at the scene of the attack and an immediate response would make it very difficult for the terrorists to reach a hostage situation.

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Secondly, there is the matter of intervention forces. A rapid intervention force such as the Israeli Police's Yasam unit, that arrives to the scene of the attack has a very important task in the first seconds of the events - and it is to decide whether it is a killing event, a "sacrifice" event or an event that involves hostages. How is the distinction made and what must be done?

When gunfire is heard and the terrorists are seen, then the response is simple - strive to immediate fire. Every second where civilians are the ones that deal with terrorist fire instead of the security forces will result in additional deaths. Another situation is when gunfire is heard and the terrorists are not seen, but civilians are seen escaping the area. In such a case, the goal is also to strive to immediate fire, but in this case, the response is more complicated, as the forces must maneuver based on sight and sound until reaching the source of the fire.

There are a few possible situations in the framework of such scenarios: In the first, the terrorists are seen shooting at crowds, contact is made and there is direct combat between the terrorists and the fighters. Another is that the force cannot see the terrorists and realizes that they have effective control over hostages from within a structure/room/hall. In such a case, the situation requires appropriate readiness such as halting the situation, preparing for breaching and preparing for the arrival of take-over units that possess tools for dealing with complex situations.

Naturally, it is recommended that the issue of takeover not be discussed in too much detail. It is suffice to say that with these units, it is possible to deal with considerably complex situations.

In the future, when we possess more information, it will be possible to provide a more professional analysis of the reaction of the forces in this event.

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Avi Kapon served in the past as the head of the IDF Lotar unit, the chief instructor at the Israeli Aviation Authority's School of Security. Today he is the owner of the security company Kapon Defense, which focuses on fire and combat instruction

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