No doubt, terrorists have targeted urban centers since the 1960’s, but those attacks focused more on sensationalism and generating attention rather than the body count. The attacks were more limited in size and scope as well.
The Origins of the Urban Siege – Mumbai
The 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, became the template for the style of urban assault we saw in Paris. In November of that year, members of a militant Islamic group fanned out across the city to conduct a series of 12 coordinated attacks lasting 4 days. When the smoke cleared, ten terrorists with small arms and explosives managed to kill 173 people and injure over 300 more.
The Mumbai attack became the standard that other terrorists used when planning their urban assaults. Starting in 2009, South Asia saw a string of similar attacks, which then spread outside the region culminating in the Westgate attack in Nairobi during 2013.
Paris: Urban Siege Perfected
The lessons of South Asia and Africa gave the jihadists a virtual laborartory by which to watch, observe and experiment before bringing their tactical and operational innovations to bear in France. And look at the results. In one night, jihadists precipitated the worst attack on French soil since World War II, leaving 130 dead and another 350 injured. The fact that the jihadists hit a Western nation with the lethality to rival that of the Mumbai attack, all the while operating with fewer attackers on a shorter timeline is truly disconcerting.
"The city is the battleground of choice for terrorists in the 21st Century."
- Operate with the assumption that jihadists are inside our borders with the intent and capability to conduct similar attacks. There is plenty of evidence to support this and we've posted numerous times about this on our Facebook site.
- Law enforcement and private citizens who are armed will likely be the only responders in a position to effectively intercept and thwart such attacks. Our security paradigm needs to reflect this reality.
- Terrorist response planning needs to contemplate scenarios involving multiple organized and coordinated attacks which occur simultaneously.
Lessons for the Private Citizen
If you find yourself in the crosshairs on an attack, these 3 items may save your life:
- Be Alert: We're not talking about being paranoid or hyper-vigilant. Engage your senses in the environment. Get the headphones out of your ears and put the cell phone away in public spaces. You can't be effective if you're not aware. Just be in the now.
- Be Mobile: The mantra we preach is: if you’re mobile, stay mobile. If you’re not mobile, get that way. Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, but our research and experience has taught us that if you can run and get away from danger, you’re odds of survival increase. It is that simple.
- Be Armed: If you can carry a weapon, do so. However, you have the responsibility to seek out qualified instructors with whom you can train. Consistent training and practice is an obligation that falls on you. You can be an asset to your family and community or you can be just in the way. Your choice.
Alea Iacta Est
The term "urban siege" first appeared in an article entitled “Postcard from Mumbai: Modern Urban Siege,” Small Wars Journal, 16 February 2009, and “Preventing Another Mumbai: Building a Police Operational Art,” 15 June 2009.
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