Scotland Yard has created an SAS-style unit of armed officers to counter the threat of a terrorist gun attack in Britain. The 130 counter-terrorism specialist firearms officers (CTSFOs) who make up the elite unit have been equipped with new weapons and retrained in new tactics, such as fast-roping from helicopters and storming burning buildings to rescue hostages.
The unit has trained alongside the army’s special forces to respond to assaults such as the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, which developed into a siege. It will also be looking to see if any lessons can be learned from Friday’s massacre in Tunisia. Police and the emergency services will hold their biggest ever counter-terrorism exercise in central London on Tuesday.
Police chiefs are adamant that their officers rather than soldiers would respond to a terrorist gun attack on Britain’s streets, but accept the military would probably have to become involved as the crisis played out. They have been wrestling with how a largely unarmed police service might deal with such an event, possibly across multiple locations in an urban area.
Regular officers have been told to call in armed colleagues. First on the scene would be one of the hundreds of armed officers who routinely patrol in armed response vehicles. They would take no longer than 15 minutes to arrive, or even less for areas identified as prime targets, such as Whitehall. The new CTSFO unit would also be scrambled.
Read more: The Guardian (UK)