Could the Paris and Mumbai models come to the US?
With last month's terror attacks in Paris, in which a handful of determined extremists brought an iconic European capital to its knees, coupled with 2008's similar attack in India, do we need to worry about a similar model being reproduced here? If so, what can we do as citizens and gun owners to be prepared?
Photo: French Foreign Legion soldiers with FAMAS rifles patrol the Eiffle Tower following November's terror attacks. (AFP: Joel Saget via abc.net.au)
On November 21, 2008, 10 terrorists left territory friendly to their cause and started out to strike their target. Each of the 10 men is given one AK-47 style rifle, 6 to 7 magazines of 30 rounds each plus 400 rounds not loaded in magazines, 8 hand grenades, a pistol, prepaid credit cards and a supply of dried fruit. Two days later, they hijacked a trawler on the open ocean and transferred to that boat. Once they came to within four miles of their target, they killed the captain and crew of the trawler and proceeded to shore in three small boats at dusk (further reason why you never trust terrorist). Over the next four days, they conducted 11 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city.
At no point during the attack did the terrorists attempt to overcome armed guards or police. The terrorists attacked largely unguarded "soft" targets, which had been scouted in advance. These included two large hotels, a hospital, and a railway station. Working in small 2-5 man teams they killed 164 people and wounded at least 308 before being taken down themselves. The resulting panic sent tremors throughout the country. The New York Times, in July 2009, described the event as, "what may be the most well-documented terrorist attack anywhere."
Over the evening of November 13, 2015, almost 7 years to the day of the Mumbai attacks, 9 terrorists whose actions were attributed to ISIS attacked no less than six different locations spread around the French capital. Armed with suicide vests, hand grenades and AK-47s acquired through Eastern European sources, they took the lives of 130 victims and wounded more than 400. As with the Mumbai attack, the action sent shock waves throughout Europe and the U.S. and prompted a large scale military mobilization in the EU, even more gun control proposals through the European Commission (although the weapons used were by and large illegally acquired), and reactionary police responses in large U.S. cities just in case.
Can it happen here?
For an investment of three small boats, ten rifles, ten pistols, a half dozen cases of ammunition, 80 hand grenades, and a some spending money, the terrorist organization behind the attacks in Mumbai reaped a terrible blood soaked return. All told, the operation could be replicated for under $75,000 and ten volunteers. When you take into account that the entire 9/11 operation is estimated from start to finish, costing al Qaeda only $500,000, you can see that the figure could be covered.
India has one of the largest and most modern coast guard and navies in the world. In size, they rank third or fourth depending on how you calculate them. They also have one of the largest and most dedicated counter-terrorism forces ever fielded, coupled with extensive domestic and overseas intelligence gathering agencies. Yet they were not able to prevent the attack or respond to it until it was underway.
While information is still being acquired on the Paris attacks, it seems they went off on an even smaller budget than the Mumbai model as many of the known terrorists were EU citizens and allowed easy travel through Western Europe.
As Paris is concerned, the French have a huge internal security apparatus put into affect by the De Gaulle government in the 1960s to counter an open revolt from the OAS (Organisation de l'arme secrte) terror group similar to our own Department of Homeland Security only arguably much more thorough and, when needed, ruthless. This allowed the government to respond very fast to the events as they unfolded-- with the elite police BRI and RAID commando teams arriving at the Bataclan theatre where three terrorists held hundreds as hostages just 35 minutes into the siege.
Still, as with Mumbai, the terrorists were able to act before they were stopped despite the long standing French experience with both threat mitigation and counterintelligence.
Even though we have a large and well trained Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, nothing is terrorist proof.
What to do if it happens here?
Since 2008, many large and medium sized U.S. police departments have studied the "Mumbai Model." This has led to more tactical training, active shooter courses, and issuing of patrol rifles (read= 5.56mm carbines) to officers.
Further, through the Pentagon's 1033 Program, as many as 80,000 surplus M16A1s (some with the fun buttons, others modded to semi-auto only) have being issued out at large rates especially to huge metro agencies. For example, the Philadelphia Police Department employs more than 6,646 officers and had 1,356 Vietnam-era M16A1 rifles donated in August of 2009 to the agency by the US military-- less than a year after Mumbai.
The thin blue line is being amped up for these threats and you can be sure that grant writers for any of the departments large and small that are applying for more gear and guns will be mentioning the Paris attack-- with reason-- as justification.
As a citizen, your best bet in a situation where multiple attackers are present with long-arms in an active shooter scenario is to take cover and shelter in place if you cannot immediately leave the area. Provide a description and location of the attackers from cover. One of the worst things to do is to flee on foot if you are being advised to shelter in place, this leads to more chaos for first responders.
If you are a CCW holder, carry your firearm with you at all times whenever legally possible. It is not advisable to get involved in a firefight with a group of terrorists equipped with long-arms. Odds are, this will shorten your life expectancy greatly and further confuse the situation for responding LEOs.
However, if and only if, there is no cover or concealment, nowhere to displace to, nowhere to evaporate into, and you are confronted with a threat then make the choice that is best for you.
This is where choices made today about carrying a second magazine, spending time at the range practicing, or choosing a caliber can come into play. Now of course let us be sensible about this and refrain from bringing your favorite 556/223 to the mall food court strapped across your shoulder with 12 spare PMAGS while muttering something about Mumbai or Paris...that is just bad for everyone. Make sensible and most importantly, defensible choices.
I hope that this will never happen. I hope that the United States has seen the last of international or domestic terrorism. I hope so, but I think not.