- Two-day ‘live play’ exercise in Aldwych near Covent Garden includes 999 services and intelligence agencies
- Armed police, the military, SAS and spies stage extraordinary show of force to test reaction to a terror attack
- Actors posing as members of the public seen with fake severed limbs and emerging from a hostage situation
- Exercise, which recreates a terrorist incident at a tube station, comes amid fears of a ‘lone wolf’ attack in the UK
- It follows similar ‘marauding‘ gun attacks in Mumbai, Sydney, Paris and the Tunisia shooting on Friday
Matt Chorley, Political Editor for MailOnline
00:17 EST, 30 June 2015
08:59 EST, 30 June 2015
Armed police, the military, SAS and spies are staging a mock ‘marauding terrorist attack’ on the streets of London today to test how emergency services deal with a deadly atrocity in the wake of the ISIS killings in Tunisia.
In the biggest exercise of its kind ever staged, Operation Strong Tower is a ‘noisy and visible’ practice run for more than 1,000 Met police, armed forces, transport workers and Whitehall officials.
In extraordinary scenes, volunteers posing as members of the public have been see with bloody wounds and fake severed limbs being lifted on stretchers by the emergency services.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner says the Met has never before put on an exercise of this magnitude and it was designed to be ‘very realistic’.
The dramatic public display of how the UK’s security services would respond to an extremist’s deadly assault comes as efforts continue to identify British holidaymakers killed by an ISIS gunman on Friday.
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Police and emergency services staged an exercise today to practice for a Tunisia-style terrorist attack in the centre of London
Actors playing victims of an imagined terror attack at a tube station were seen sporting gruesome fake injuries during the exercise
Armed police were also seen piling into a disused London Underground station earlier this morning as part of the exercise
Details of the plan were made public in advance to prevent panic, as police chiefs said it would include ‘live play’ of a terrorist attack at a tube station, days before London marks 10 years since the 7/7 bombings which killed 52 people.
David Cameron said today’s operation will ‘test and refine the UK’s preparedness for dealing with a serious terrorist attack’.
The two-day training exercise began in central London this morning to see how a large number of agencies work together in the face of a chaotic and dangerous situation.
Ms de Brunner, the exercise director, said: ‘The exercise is designed to test command control and coordination of a multi-site marauding terrorist attack.’
This morning it included ‘a test of the emergency service response to a terrorist attack, at the disused tube station at Aldwych’.
Surrey Street, which runs from the Strand to the Thames, was closed in the exercise which has been ‘highly visible and audible to the public’.
The exercise started with a group of terrorists running down the street shooting pedestrians with dummy AK-47 rifles
TV footage of the incident showed armour-covered police officers treating mock victims marked with signs during the staged ‘attack’
Many of those taking part had blood-soaked clothes and injuries so that police and ambulance services could practice triage
The first officers to arrive on the scene of the fake terror attack were ‘put through their paces by mounting an operation to contain the area, evacuate the public, rescue and treat the wounded, manage a crime scene and importantly catch the people responsible’, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner said.
The exercise is designed to test command control and coordination of a multi-site marauding terrorist attack
Scotland Yard’s Maxine de Brunner
Many of those taking part had blood-soaked clothes and injuries so that police and ambulance services could practice triage. Others appeared to be playing hostages as they emerged appeared from a building near the old Aldwych tube station with their hands on their heads.
Police stressed that the ambitious exercise had been planned since January, but it will take on extra significance after the deadly shootings in Tunisia.
Met Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said: ‘The threat level for terrorism has been raised over the last year and it is vital that we train and we learn.
‘Today’s exercise will test our people in how to respond to a terrorist threat and we will learn from the mistakes that we are bound to make today.
‘It’s best we make them today in an environment were we don’t have terrorists, than make those mistakes when we do.’
The rate of terror-related arrests has increased in the last year, he said to the point where one person is caught every day.
The exercise to help police, ambulance services and officials anticipate how they would deal with a real terror attack in the capital
Police had to deal with people displaying a range of injuries during the training exercise, which comes after the Tunisia shooting
The exercise showed the large number of anti-terror police the Met now has at is disposal, with a new unit said to include 130 officers
‘It is clear during that time that we’ve disrupted some very serious plots and some of those cases are going to the courts.
The reason we have exercises like today is because, obviously, we are concerned there are people planning terrorist events
‘We are testing here today in London, our capital city; I think people would expect us to do that.
‘We’ve got lots of good leaders and lots of well trained people who are able to respond to the terrorist threat. The reason that we have these exercises is to make sure we are well trained.’
Sir Bernard added: ‘The reason we have exercises like today is because, obviously, we are concerned there are people planning terrorist events. We intend first of all to stop them from getting to attack. But should we not stop the terrorists in their planning, it’s essential we disrupt them in any of the attacks that may take place.’
The exercise includes 1,000 Met police officers and staff, as well as teams from ambulance and fire services, Transport for London, the Home Office, Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, Department for Transport, Ministry of Defence, Department of Health, NHS England and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Miss de Brunner said: ‘This exercise is focused in the extreme end of what may happen, and I’d like to stress it is not being carried out in response to any specific intelligence
‘And I’d like to reiterate to you all that this has been months in the planning – since January.’
Other police teams appeared outside Aldwych station in red uniforms which include heavy body armour
Volunteers playing hostages appeared from a building near the old Aldwych tube station with their hands on their heads
Police were seen evacuating scores of people from the disused Underground station, some of whom appeared to have lost limbs
She added: ‘We do not want the public to be concerned because there will be elements of what we are doing that are noisy and visible.’
However, police and intelligence services believe the biggest threat against Britain comes from an attack by a ‘lone wolf’ who is not connected to any wider terror cell.
Security officials say they are the hardest plots to disrupt because they can be the work of a single person with little or no contact with known terrorists groups.
Police have had to draw up plans on how to respond to an ongoing gun attack, in which the perpetrators target dozens of people in public areas over a long period, as seen in Mumbai in 2008.
Fears of a ‘marauding’ gun attack have been raised after 18 people were taken hostage and two died in a siege in a coffee shop in Sydney last December, and the attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January in which 12 people died.
On Friday gunman Seifeddine Rezgui targeted tourists at the Tunisian beach resort of El Kantaoui near Sousse, killing 38 people including at least 18 British holidaymakers, making it the worst terror attack on Britons since the July 7 London bombings in 2005.
It was reported this morning that Scotland Yard has been training a special unit of armed police to deal with such situations
Actors playing victims of the staged attack were seen being dragged away in slings by armed police
The exercise is one of the biggest of its kind ever conducted by the emergency services in London
Police chiefs argue they are better prepared for an attack than a decade ago, but have ordered today’s training exercise to adapt to the evolving threat.
Miss de Brunner said: ‘Sadly London is no stranger to terrorism and we, alongside our colleagues, have had to deal with the tragic events of July 2005.
‘Given the changing nature of the very real terrorism threat and events around the world – Paris and Australia – we need to constantly adapt our plans and prepare for new and emerging threats.’
She added: ‘What is vitally important to all the agencies involved, who routinely work together, and to Londoners is that when the very worst happens we are prepared to be the very best that we can and understand how each other will all operate together
‘We have sound plans and highly dedicated, brave staff, that Londoners can be confident in.
‘However, only through testing and exercising, constantly challenging our assumptions, refining our tactics and learning from our own experiences and those from others around the world can we be confident in our ability to respond.’
The extraordinary display of force comes days after ISIS gunman Seifeddine Rezgui gunned down 38 innocent tourists, including up to 30 Britons, on a beach in Tunisia
Fears of a ‘marauding’ gun attack have been raised after 18 people were taken hostage and two died in a siege in a coffee shop in Sydney last December, and the attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January in which 12 people died
It comes as the police launched their biggest counter-terror operation for a decade over fears a ‘lone wolf’ attack could be launched using sub-machine guns smuggled into Britain.
The National Crime Agency has warned of the ‘increased threat’ posed by Skorpion weapons from the Czech Republic imported by gangs which could be used to kill dozens of people in copycat of the attack in Tunisia on Friday.
Scotland Yard has drafted in 600 officers – the biggest since the 7/7 bombings – and the Army is on standby to support police.
Terror manuals outlining how to make bombs and use firearms effectively are also being circulated by British extremists online. The interactive guides, which encourage ‘lone wolf’ attacks, were compiled by a militant from England who claims to have links to ISIS.
They include step-by-step instructions on how to make car bombs ‘Iraqi style’ and a piece on staying anonymous while using a smartphone.
David Cameron said today’s operation would ‘test and refine the UK’s preparedness for dealing with a serious terrorist attack’