Ter­ror on the Thames? No, just a drill

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - Rob Booth and agency

Emer­gency ser­vices, in­clud­ing armed po­lice, take part in a drill in Lon­don sim­u­lat­ing the res­cue of hostages from a Thames boat

More than 200 armed po­lice have prac­tised their re­sponse to a ter­ror­ist at­tack on a Thames plea­sure boat in the first drill of its kind on the river.

A sight­see­ing ship be­came the scene of a fierce mock gun bat­tle be­tween armed of­fi­cers and po­lice pos­ing as ter­ror­ists shortly af­ter 11am yes­ter­day.

The ex­er­cise, close to the Lon­don Dock­lands area, was the first time the Metropoli­tan po­lice have staged a live, wa­ter­borne ex­er­cise such as this. Armed of­fi­cers boarded the ship in a hail of “gun­fire” just over two hours af­ter five of­fi­cers pos­ing as armed ter­ror­ists hi­jacked the ves­sel.

The Met, the Port of Lon­don Author­ity, Lon­don coast­guard, the Royal Na­tional Lifeboat In­sti­tu­tion, Lon­don am­bu­lance ser­vice and Lon­don fire brigade took part in the ex­er­cise, aimed at test­ing emer­gency res­cue tac­tics in life­like con­di­tions. The drill was de­signed to test ev­ery phase from the mo­ment an in­ci­dent is re­ported to the con­clu­sion of a res­cue op­er­a­tion.

Com­man­der BJ Har­ring­ton, head of the Met’s pub­lic order com­mand, said the ex­er­cise was not in re­sponse to any spe­cific in­tel­li­gence about an im­pend­ing at­tack. But he noted that re­cent ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents in the rest of Europe showed how would-be at­tack­ers have found var­ied ways to in­flict harm.

The ex­er­cise comes two weeks af­ter the Met’s most se­nior counter-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cer, As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Mark Row­ley, re­vealed that se­cu­rity ser­vices have thwarted 13 po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the UK in less than four years. The of­fi­cial threat level for in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism in the UK has been at se­vere – mean­ing an at­tack is highly likely – for more than two years.

Pho­to­graph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Top pho­to­graph: LNP/Peter Mac­di­armid

Yes­ter­day’s multi-agency ex­er­cise on the Thames, the first of its kind, in­cluded the throw­ing over­board of a dummy rep­re­sent­ing a body (be­low)

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