The Boston attack proved once again how vulnerable any city or country can be under a terrorist attack. In the aftermath, we were subjected to the news media clamoring for access to the opinions of the experts.
In almost every case the “experts” start popping off and saying what went wrong and what should have been done differently to prevent an incident from happening. After the incident, discussing what went wrong or who to blame is not always helpful. What is very important is the support of the victims and their families. Before the experts even answer their cell phones, attention to the incident and treatment of the victims is the priority.
U.S.A is considered as having some of the best intelligence agencies in the world. The fact that the bombing occurred just confirms that those agencies can’t see or know everything. What most people are missing is that sometimes no matter how well secured a place can be, a well planned attack is hard to detect and harder to prevent. Terrorists (even domestic terrorists), nowadays have extremely powerful cells, funding, skill sets, manpower and most important determination! There have been reports of specific attacks that took 10-12 years to plan and act upon, so it’s not that easy identify their actions and prevent the attack.
One issue that has always concerned me is the need for specific education and awareness for civilians relative to a crisis incident. It is sad to say but we can’t ignore the need for teaching civilians how to react during a terrorist attack or even an earthquake. We teach response to a hurricane or an earthquake and we still have fatalities caused by ignorance. Terrorist or criminal attacks can’t always be foreseen but reacting to the immediate aftermath directly affects the mortality of the victims, arrest of the suspects, and safety of the greater community.
Personally I consider First Aid training mandatory for anyone, no matter his age or professional background. If you are not interested in possibly saving your neighbor’s life then what about being ready if any family member needs your help? Can anybody (no matter age, education and professional background) get trained in basic First Aid or how to deal with a hurricane or an earthquake? Yes they can. Can someone be trained and aware in simple security awareness tips? Yes they can!
After a crisis incident we see people who run around screaming, with most of them unable to evaluate the environment they are in. They feel lost and can’t control their thoughts or actions, they will probably hurt themselves due to panic and fear. It is the surprise of an attack and the disability to control their fear and adrenaline that turns them into a threat to themselves or others around them.
The wounded screaming for immediate help and the few people who can operate in stressful environments come together. The capable helping the incapable, and the “heroes” are not necessary law enforcement or medics. They are people who can put logic to work instead of giving in to their fear. They revert back to their training or previous life experience and offer basic first aid or other support.
There are many organizations out there that offer training. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), your local fire or police department, American Red Cross and even local community groups offer everything from basic first aid to advanced trauma and mass casualty care.
This kind of training requires dedication from your side and not many are willing to spend the time in a classroom. The result in selfish time management is an unprepared citizen.
According to the American Red Cross, relating to Terrorism: Some things experienced after a Terrorist attack are:
-Significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure.
-Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature and health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits or even overwhelmed.
-Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
-Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
-You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding road blocks or be forced to stay locked in your home….. or be ordered into “holding areas” or “treatment centers” “for our own safety”
-Clean-up may take many months.
Tips to have in mind while dealing with a terrorist or other incident:
- Remain calm.
- Be patient and follow directions from law enforcement, EMT’s or fire department personnel.
- If you believe you can act calmly and offer help, check for injured persons.
- Give first aid and get help for people in need.
- If you can’t control your emotions or fear, stay out of the way.
- If the event occurs near your home, check for damage.
- Check for fires, fire hazards and other household hazards.
- Sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater.
- If you smell gas, turn off the main valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly.
- Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches. USE FLASHLIGHTS
- Shut off any other damaged utilities.
- Contact your family but do not use landline telephones.
- Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.
- If you’re in a building and the attack occurs inside, head for the nearest exit.
- Always use the stairs, NEVER elevators.
- If you’re in a building and the attack occurs outdoors, don’t attempt to exit.
- If you’re outside and the attack is outside, immediately enter a house or building.
- If you can’t enter a structure, determine the direction of the wind and move cross-wind.
- If you’re in your car stay inside and drive away from the cloud (again cross-wind if possible).
- Shut and lock all doors and windows.
- Turn off air-conditioners, heaters, ventilation systems, all electrical appliances.
- Close all water and gas taps
- Seal the doors and windows. If possible, place damp towels at the bottom of doors.
- Stay put until you’re given the all clear by an official authority
- Be prepared to evacuate if given the official order to do so.
- If your family members are in different places, use your judgment on how to proceed.
- If they are in a safe environment, leave them there until the situation is normalized.
Remember beeing aware and prepared to deal with a bad situation can save your life and others as well.
Founder & Worldwide Director
As posted on Israel Security Agency website: (http://www.shabak.gov.il/english/history/affairs/pages/anne-mariemurphycase.aspx)
On Thursday, April 17, 1986, at the Heathrow International Airport in London, El Al security agents thwarted an attempt to blow up an El Al plane in mid-air. The plane, a Boeing 747, flight no. 016 on the New York – London – Tel Aviv route, was preparing to depart with 395 passengers and crew
The plan was to plant explosives in the belly of the plane; the explosives were to be transported by a duped and innocent passenger entirely unaware of their existence.
El Al security agents at the London stop uncovered the explosives and prevented the terror attack. After the discovery of the explosives, local authorities took over and arrested the passenger; later also arresting the man who sent her, a Jordanian Arab named Nizar Hindawi.
The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.
No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.
Examination of the bomb by the local police revealed a detonator in the Commodore calculator coated with plastic Simtex explosives, connected to an electronic timing device which was set to activate the major explosives cache hidden inside the bag.
An examination of the timer mechanism, once it was disconnected from the explosives, revealed that the jet was intended to explode about two and a quarter hours after its takeoff for Israel, at a height of 39,000 feet, when it would have been airborne between Italy and Greece.
Hindawi’s Syrian connection
Anne-Marie Murphy’s interrogation revealed that she had met a Jordanian named Nizar Hindawi about two years earlier. He presented himself as a journalist, and a relationship developed between the two. The relationship was on and off, given that Hindawi was not permanently resident in the UK. In April 1986, when they met again, he discovered that she was in advanced stages of pregnancy as a result of their relationship. He suggested that they marry, and spend their honeymoon in Israel. He gave her a sum of money for buying clothes, acquiring a passport, and purchasing a plane ticket to Israel. He further told her that as a Jordanian, he was unable to travel together with her, but would travel to Jordan and from there he would travel by land to Israel in order to meet her at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
On the night before her flight, Hindawi arrived at her house with a large bag and helped her to pack her belongings. During the drive to the airport, she noticed that he was fumbling in her bag: later on it was revealed that this was in order to connect a battery to the Commodore computer and to attach it to the bottom of the bag, close to the principal explosives cache.
The interrogation of the terrorist Hindawi as well as other individuals arrested in the case, revealed that the Syrians were behind the plan, through members of their embassy in London. Syrian air force intelligence men brought the bag, which was later equipped with explosives, from Syria to the UK, via Syrian Airlines. These Syrians also prepared an operational infrastructure in London, including a safe apartment used for briefings, preparation and escape following the attack. Hindawi’s interrogation revealed that he had been linked with the Syrian intelligence since the 80’s, as well as with two senior officers in the security administration of the Syrian air force.
In February 1986, one of the two, Haytham Sa’id, proposed to Hindawi that he plant a bomb in an El Al jet. Hindawi received detailed instructions from Sa’id regarding how to plant the bomb. Sa’id further advised Hindawi to use a woman to plant the bomb in the jet, explaining that a woman would arouse less suspicion. Hindawi was promised $250,000 for carrying out the mission.
Hindawi decided to make use of his girlfriend, Anne-Marie, to plant the bag in the El Al plane. He proposed to her on April 7, 1986, and suggested that they hold the wedding in Israel, as well as the honeymoon. On the 16th of April, Hindawi helped his girlfriend pack her bags, in the bag he brought her specially for this purpose. The next day, he accompanied her to the airport. On the way, he activated the explosive mechanism of the bomb.
Hindawi returned to his hotel after bidding farewell to Murphy, and waited for the Syrian Airlines crew car which would take him to the airport, where he would depart for Syria. When the car arrived, one of the crew members informed him that Anne-Marie Murphy had been arrested at the airport. He instructed Hindawi to hail a taxi and to go immediately to the Syrian embassy. The man gave Hindawi a sealed envelope, and instructed him to hand it to the Syrian ambassador personally.
When the ambassador read the missive, he instructed Hindawi to travel, with two Syrians, to the safe apartment in London. Hindawi was held in the apartment until the next morning, when the two Syrians again arrived to accompany him back to the embassy. Hindawi suspected that they were about to kill him. He fled and called his brother, who called the police. Hindawi was arrested. At the time of his arrest he was in possession of a Syrian passport.
The apartment in which Hindawi had been held was that of a guard in the Syrian embassy, and the Syrians guarding him were embassy guards. The three were expelled from the UK. A British police search of the apartment revealed Hindawi’s false documents as well as official Syrian embassy documents.
The trial and the consequences
Anne-Marie Murphy was not tried. Nizar Hindawi was sentenced on October 25, 1986, to 45 years imprisonment. During the trial, his defense attorney attempted to claim that the affair was a Mossad provocation, and that the Mossad had planted the bomb in order to “uncover” it and thus gain political capital against Syria. The security officer who testified in the trial under the name Mr. A, hidden from the audience and reporters by a curtain, was forced to deny that he was a Mossad agent as well as that he himself had hidden the bomb in Anne-Marie Murphy’s belongings during the security check…
As a result of the affair, Britain cut its ties with Syria. The exposure of the explosives in London foiled the terror attack, and saved the lives of 395 passengers and crew. The Israeli prime minister at the time, Shimon Peres, later stated that if the attack had been successfully carried out, the state of Israel would have been forced to go to war with Syria as a result of the Syrian role in the attack.
A rare coincidence
This incident occurred in London less than six months after El Al’s security apparatus had been put to the test: on the 27th December, 1985, two groups of terrorists simultaneously attacked groups of El Al passengers in the Rome and Vienna airports.
The attacks were thwarted, leading to the deaths of three terrorists in Rome, and the arrest of the fourth, who was wounded. In Vienna, one terrorist was killed and two were caught. During the Vienna incident, El Al security officers and guards led a hot pursuit of the terrorists’ car, together with the local police. In the two incidents together, sixteen civilians were killed, including an El Al passenger, and 120 were wounded, including 7 El Al employees, 4 deputy security officers, and one security guard.
It turned out that the “Abu Nidal” organization was behind the planning and execution of the two attacks; and furthermore, the terrorists departed from Damascus, the “Abu Nidal” faction headquarters, for both Rome and Vienna. There was a rare and coincidental connection between these two incidents and the London incident: the security officer of the London flight was involved in the Vienna incident as well, where he had been serving as a backup security officer at the local El Al station.
These two incidents reflect some degree of the great complexity in the field of security, and the high level of expertise required to provide a response to a variety of threats: the preparedness and the quick reactions needed for an immediate response to an attack initiated by the opponent; as well as the “mind war” between the security apparatus and the terrorist organizations eager to find gaps in security which can be used to infiltrate explosive devices to explode planes in midair, even with the unwitting aid of duped passengers.
An examination of the timer mechanism, once it was disconnected from the explosives, revealed that the jet was intended to explode about two and a quarter hours after its takeoff for Israel, at a height of 39,000 feet”