German counter-terror force to help set up Mumbai SWAT team

The Mumbai Police have been in touch with Germany’s elite counter-terrorism force,GSG-9,to create for the first time a Special Weapons and Tactics.....

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | Bonn | Published: March 29, 2009 12:39:38 am

The Mumbai Police have been in touch with Germany’s elite counter-terrorism force,GSG-9,to create for the first time a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team from within their ranks to address 26/11’s biggest shortcoming—the lack of response in the first 10 hours.

A GSG-9 team visited Mumbai over a month ago and it has now extended an invitation for a Mumbai Police team to visit its central facility near Bonn. Senior GSG-9 officials told The Sunday Express that they were willing to extend all help to the city’s police for this purpose. The cooperation will gain momentum once the two countries sign the MoU for internal security cooperation.

While the Mumbai Police hope to do specialised training courses with the GSG-9,the NSG plans to engage with the German Force on a different plane to work on the lessons learnt from Mumbai and then chalk out an assistance programme. There is strong mutual admiration between the two elite forces,particularly since the NSG was modelled after the GSG-9.

“It is not professional for one to comment in an operation that we have not be involved in. But the NSG did a highly professional job and we hold the highest regard for NSG and the Mumbai police for the way they handled the situation. It was an unprecedented and complex situation,” said Carsten Laube,Chief Superintendent of operations at the GSG-9,when asked about his assessment of the NSG operations.

Laube was among those who visited the NSG at Delhi and then went to Mumbai to understand the operations and discuss future cooperation. Since then,the GSG-9 too has been doing some in-house thinking. The most important lesson from an attack like the one in Mumbai,Laube said,was the short reaction time it gives elite forces besides the fact that the terrorists did not show any intent to start negotiations which would have provided time to plan an operation.

After his India visit,he has tasked the relevant group in GSG-9 to work on ways to reduce reaction time. Unlike the NSG,the GSG-9 is a smaller force with 274 personnel of which not all are involved in operations. It has three operational units with an average of about 45 men in each of them. At any given point,a unit of 30 men is prepared to leave at one-hour notice while the entire GSG-9 can be mobilised to any spot in Germany in four hours.

The German Interior Ministry’s Helicopter Unit has dedicated two choppers permanently to the GSG-9 which remain stationed next the force’s base. But after Mumbai,Laube says a “transportation concept” has to be drawn up separately as part of the exercise to shorten reaction time.

The GSG-9 has,however,one advantage. All 16 states of Germany have SWAT teams — some have small teams numbering 30,others up to 100. Many of these received their initial training from GSG-9,which continues to work very closely with them. Laube explained that the GSG-9 and the SWAT teams are familiar with each other’s working which makes it easier during an operation. So while the GSG-9 may be a small force,its biggest strength lies in running coordinated operations with several SWAT teams.

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