Al-Shabaab

How To Survive A Mall Shooting

If you’ve been following the news the last couple of days, you might have heard about the threat by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab against a particular “family” of shopping malls (blogged about this Sunday). The more I thought about the potential for a mall shooting, the more I wondered if there was anything out in cyberspace that might assist readers in surviving an active shooter situation within this type of environment. Enter SPIKE’s TV series Surviving Disaster from a couple of years back (blogged about here). In particular, the episode entitled “Mall Shooting.” For those of you who’ve never heard of the television series, from the SPIKE website:

What will you do when disaster strikes? Spike TV’s new original series Surviving Disaster, led by Navy SEAL Cade Courtley, vividly takes viewers through catastrophic scenarios and arms them with the knowledge needed to survive the unthinkable. Courtley tackles worst-case scenarios and equips viewers with the practical information needed to save their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Whether the threat is natural or man-made or on a national or personal level, Courtley speaks directly to the viewers and guides them through a comprehensive, step-by-step process to not only survive the big picture disaster, but endure the many dangerous obstacles that may occur within each catastrophic event. While leading viewers out of danger, Courtley not only provides helpful tips and hands-on instruction, but swiftly points out common misconceptions and fatal mistakes. Unlike any other series, Surviving Disaster may actually save lives by providing actions that anyone can perform.

If Cade Courtley looks familiar, it may be that you recognize him from another survival TV series called America Unplugged that recently aired on the New Berlin, Wisconsin-based TV network The Sportsman Channel (blogged about here– good stuff). Or it could be from a different project of his.


“Who is Cade Courtley?”
YouTube Video

Getting back to Surviving Disaster’s “Mall Shooting,” from the SPIKE website:

A highly trained terrorist cell takes over a crowded mall in a military style siege. Navy SEAL Cade Courtley shows you how to survive a firefight using SEAL Team tactics and take on this well armed enemy by constructing improvised weapons, smoke bombs and night vision gear.

It’s been a few years since I watched the 42-minute production. But I think it still has a lot to offer should readers ever find themselves in a similar predicament. For example, I jotted down the following from the first part of “Mall Shooting,” after the terrorists had commenced their attack:

• Don’t play dead
• Spread out
• Priority is to clear the “kill zone” as fast as possible
• Move away from the kill zone, from cover to cover, avoiding mere concealment if possible
• If no clear exit nearby, escape through the back of a store to the fire-escape hallways
• If the exits from the hallways are blocked/booby-trapped, search for a different escape route from the mall, utilizing those “you are here” maps if necessary
• One possible exit could be the loading dock area, which might be difficult for the terrorists to seal off and a potentially-good spot for law enforcement/other rescuers to gain entry into the facility

Now, some of this might sound “basic” to a number of readers. However, Courtley did cover more “advanced” topics like:

• Individual/group movement (keep at least a foot off of walls because bullets could ricochet down their length)
• Obtaining makeshift weapons and gear from within the mall
• Ambushing terrorists
• Operating an AK-type rifle acquired from the bad guys
• Constructing a makeshift silencer for the captured firearm

There’s plenty more material in Surviving Disaster’s “Mall Shooting,” which you can view in its entirety over on the SPIKE website here.

Personally, I hope readers never have to utilize this information. That being said, I’m real glad SPIKE TV and Cade Courtley put it out there for the general public.

Know of other “how to survive a mall shooting” resources? Feel free to share it with everyone via the comment section.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Courtley’s SEAL survival guide…

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Chicago-Area Shopping Malls Targeted By Terrorists?

Muslim extremists are calling for terror attacks directed against Western malls. From the website of Chicago CBS affiliate Channel 2 Saturday night:

A terror group with ties to al-Qaeda released an online video Saturday appearing to call for attacks on Western malls, including at least one U.S. shopping center.

There is no credible, serious threat to a location in the Chicago region, but CBS 2’s Chelsea Irving reports one area police agency is taking the message seriously.

In the 75-minute video released Saturday, Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab calls for lone followers to attack Western targets.

The speaker specifically mentions the Mall of America in Minnesota. In the last five minutes of the video, the logo of Westfield shopping centers appears. The addresses in the video are for Westfield malls in England, but the speaker calls for attacks on any Westfield mall.

In the U.S., Westfield has 38 malls in eight states. Three are in the Chicago region: in Aurora, Skokie and Vernon Hills…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Specifically, those Chicago-area shopping malls are Westfield Fox Valley (Aurora), Westfield Old Orchard (Skokie), and Westfield Hawthorn (Vernon Hills).

Keep in mind authorities say “there is no credible, serious threat to a location in the Chicago region.” Personally, I’d just as soon visit these three malls as any other these days, maintaining optimal situational awareness during those “shopping sprees.”

You can read the entire CBS 2 piece on their website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Terrorists Planning On Kidnapping Americans, Attacking Water Systems As Well As Airlines Again?

There is quite a lot of terrorism talk going on these days in the mainstream media outlets. On October 10, Mike Deeson reported on the website of Tampa Bay CBS affiliate 10 News about potential terrorist “dry-runs” on the airlines. Deeson wrote:

A memo obtained by the 10 News investigators from the union that represents pilots for US Airways says that “there have been several cases recently throughout the (airline) industry of what appear to be probes, or dry-runs, to test our procedures and reaction to an in flight threat.”

In a September 2 incident aboard a flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando International Airport:

Crew members say that shortly after takeoff, a group of four “Middle Eastern” men caused a commotion.

The witnesses claim one of the men ran from his seat in coach, toward the flight deck door. He made a hard left and entered the forward bathroom “for a considerable length of time.”

While he was in there, the other three men proceeded to move about the cabin, changing seats, opening overhead bins, and “generally making a scene.” They appeared to be trying to occupy and distract the flight attendants.

“He made a hard left and entered the forward bathroom ‘for a considerable length of time.'” The other three men acting all anxious?

Could’ve been an earlier “chow call” gone horribly wrong with a subsequent frantic search for the Imodium A-D that was packed away in their checked-in luggage.

All kidding aside, both US Airways and the Transportation Security Administration confirmed the incident for 10 News investigators, and there’s been a Congressional call for an investigation of the matter according to a later 10 News piece.

On October 18, possible terrorist activity directed against Midwestern municipal water systems was reported on the Kansas City Star website. According to the paper:

The FBI is investigating a threat against water systems in four Midwestern cities, including Wichita, Kan.

FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said Friday the FBI hasn’t substantiated any threats to the four cities. She would not name those cities, saying only that they were confined to the Midwest.

Finally, last weekend it was reported that intelliegence sources have informed FOX News there’s been significant Internet chatter by terrorists urging followers to kidnap Americans overseas:


“U.S. uncovers new terror threats from Al Shabab”
FOX News Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Deeson, Mike. “10 News Investigators find memo warning about terrorist “dry-runs” on airplanes.” 10 News Tampa Bay. 10 Oct. 2013. (http://www.wtsp.com/news/topstories/article/339104/0/INVESTIGATORS-Memo-warns-of-terrorist-dry-runs-on-planes). 24 Oct. 2013.

“FBI investigating threat to water systems in Midwestern cities.” Kansas City Star. 18 Oct. 2013. (http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/18/4561155/fbi-investigating-threat-to-water.html). 24 Oct. 2013.

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Authorities Concerned About ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist Attacks On Anniversary Of Osama Bin Laden’s Death

On May 1, 2011, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs taking part in Operation Neptune Spear in Pakistan. With the one-year anniversary of his death fast approaching, intelligence agencies are concerned about a possible retaliatory strike(s) by Muslim extremists. Mike Levine wrote on the FOX News website this morning:

Just days before the one-year anniversary of Usama bin Laden’s death, federal authorities are telling partners around the country there is no specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland but they remain concerned “lone wolf” terrorists could use the date to avenge the former Al Qaeda leader’s death.

In an intelligence bulletin issued late Wednesday, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Northern Command note that terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Northern Africa’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Pakistani Taliban have called for revenge against the United States for killing bin Laden during the May 1, 2011, raid on his hideout in Pakistan.

The bulletin says Al Qaeda or its affiliates would view an attack “on this anniversary as a symbolic victory,” especially in the wake of losses suffered by Al Qaeda through U.S. drone attacks and other efforts overseas.

In addition, according to the bulletin, authorities remain concerned that so-called “lone-wolf” extremists not already identified “will execute attacks with little or no warning on or about the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Levine added that the intelligence bulletin cited Al-Qaeda’s emphasis on symbolic dates to launch terror attacks, and that Muslim extremists might be particularly motivated to carry out a strike in retaliation for recent controversies including Koran burnings and the desecration of corpses in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Steven Chase wrote about the concern over “lone wolf” terrorists on The Globe and Mail (Canada) website. From the article:

Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also acknowledged Monday that al-Qaeda’s switch to a sole-actor approach to inflicting damage is presenting a problem for Western anti-terrorist agencies…

Mr. Fadden predicted al-Qaeda’s recent embrace of smaller, leaderless acts of terror is a sign of things to come.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has as recently as last fall published an online magazine called Inspire that called for “open source jihad” and instructed readers to how to carry out their own attacks, he noted. “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” was the title of article in the Summer, 2010, issue.

“My colleagues in Britain, Australia and the United States are of the same opinion: We are seeing an increase in the number of people who are acting on their own,” he said.

“When there are a certain number of people involved, there is a possibility of intercepting communications; the chances of errors are far greater. But when there’s one person who’s not talking to anybody, [counterterrorism agencies] have to be really lucky.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

In addition, Fadden pointed out that the “lone wolf” approach not only attracts the ideologically-driven, but those with “serious personal problems” as well- making them more unpredictable.

It might not be a bad idea ratcheting up one’s vigilance in the coming days.

Sources:

Levine, Mike. “Feds urge vigilance 1 year after bin Laden’s death.” FOX News. 26 Apr. 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/25/feds-urge-vigilance-1-year-after-bin-laden-death/). 26 Apr. 2012.

Chase, Steven. “Al-Qaeda switching tactics, CSIS warns.” The Globe and Mail. 23 Apr. 2012. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/al-qaeda-switching-tactics-csis-warns/article2411810/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Politics&utm_content=2411810). 26 Apr. 2012.

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Shadow CIA: Al-Qaeda Probably Not Capable Of Another 9/11

Back on September 1, while concerns about Al-Qaeda carrying out an attack on the United States to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 grew, Scott Stewart of STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting, Inc., a global intelligence company which Barron’s once called the “Shadow CIA”) argued the terrorist organization is incapable of carrying out another strike on the same level of September 11, 2001. I thought Stewart’s Security Weekly piece was thought-provoking. Reprinted with STRATFOR’s permission…

Why al Qaeda Is Unlikely To Execute Another 9/11

By Scott Stewart

It is Sept. 1, and that means we are once again approaching the anniversary of al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. In the 10 years that have passed since the attacks, a lot has happened and much has changed in the world, but many people can still vividly recall the sense of fear, uncertainty and helplessness they felt on that September morning. Millions of people watched United Airlines flight 175 smash into the south tower of the World Trade Center on live television. A short while later they heard that another plane had struck the Pentagon. Then they watched in horror as the World Trade Center’s twin towers buckled and collapsed to the ground.

It was, by any measure, a stunning, cataclysmic scene, a kind of terrorist theater that transformed millions of television viewers into vicarious victims. Excerpts of the just-released memoir of then-Vice President Dick Cheney demonstrate that it was not just ordinary people who were affected by the attacks; America’s leaders where shocked and shaken, too. And judging from the statements of foreign citizens and leaders in the wake of 9/11, those who proclaimed, “We are all Americans,” it was also apparent that the toll on vicarious victims did not stop at the U.S. border.

One result of this vicarious victimization and the fear and helplessness it produced was that many people became fixated on the next attack and began anxiously “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” This spawned an entire industry of fear as dire warnings were propagated by the Internet of the impending “American Hiroshima” that was certain to result when al Qaeda detonated all the nuclear devices it had hidden in major U.S. cities. Chain emails were widely circulated and recirculated quoting a dubious Israeli “security expert” who promised simultaneous catastrophic terrorist attacks against a number of American cities — attacks that never materialized outside of Hollywood productions.

Fast-forward a decade and we are now commemorating 9/11’s 10th anniversary, which seems more significant somehow because it is a round number. Perhaps of more meaningful significance is that this anniversary closely follows the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2. Indeed, the buzz regarding this coincidence has caused many of our clients and readers to ask for our assessment of the terrorist threat inside the United States on this 10th anniversary of 9/11.

While we believe that today holds some degree of symbolism for many, the threat of an attack on Sept. 11, 2011, is no higher than it was on Aug. 11 or than it will be on Sept. 12, and below we explain why.

The State of al Qaeda and the Jihad

All threats have two basic components: intent and capability. Al Qaeda’s leaders have threatened to conduct an attack more terrible than 9/11 for nearly a decade now, and the threats continue. Here’s what Ayman al-Zawahiri, now al Qaeda’s No. 1, said to his followers on Aug. 15, 2011, in a message released on the Internet via as-Sahab media:

“Seek to attack America that has killed the Imam of the Mujahideen and threw his corpse in the sea and then imprisoned his women and children. Seek to attack her so history can say that a criminal state had spread corruption on earth and Allah sent her his servants who made her a lesson for others and left her as a memory.”

The stated intent of al Qaeda and the rest of the jihadist movement is and has been to strike the United States as hard and as often as possible. It logically follows, then, that al Qaeda would strike the United States on Sept. 11 — or any other day — if possible. With intent thus established, now we need to focus on capability.

One of the primary considerations regarding al Qaeda’s capability to strike the United States is the state of the jihadist movement itself. The efforts of the U.S. government and its allies against the core al Qaeda group, which is based in Pakistan, have left it badly damaged and have greatly curtailed its operational ability, especially its ability to conduct transnational attacks. In January we forecast that we believed the al Qaeda core was going to be marginalized on the physical battlefield in 2011 and that it would also struggle to remain relevant on the ideological battlefield. Indeed, it has been our assessment for several years now that al Qaeda does not pose a strategic threat to the United States.

Since we published our 2011 forecast, bin Laden has been killed as well as senior al Qaeda leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who reportedly died in a strike by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle Aug. 22 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. We continue to believe that the al Qaeda core group is off balance and concerned for its security — especially in light of the intelligence gathered in the raid on bin Laden’s hideout. The core group simply does not enjoy the operational freedom it did prior to September 2001. We also believe the group no longer has the same operational capability in terms of international travel and the ability to transfer money that it had prior to 9/11.

Some people believe there is a greater chance of an attack on this year’s 9/11 anniversary because of the killing of bin Laden, while others note that al-Zawahiri may feel pressure to conduct an attack in order to prove his credibility as al Qaeda’s new leader.

Our belief, as noted above, is that al Qaeda has been doing its utmost to attack the United States and has not pulled any punches. Because of this, we do not believe it possesses the ability to increase this effort beyond where it was prior to bin Laden’s death. As to the pressure on al-Zawahiri, we noted in December 2007 that the al Qaeda core had been under considerable pressure to prove itself relevant for several years and that, despite this pressure, had yet to deliver. Because of this, we do not believe that the pressure to conduct a successful attack is any heavier on al-Zawahiri today than it was prior to bin Laden’s death.

Finally, we believe that if al Qaeda possessed the capability to conduct a spectacular attack it would launch the attack as soon as it was operationally ready, rather than wait for some specific date. The risk of discovery is simply too great.

There are also some who still believe that al Qaeda maintains a network of “sleeper operatives” inside the United States that can be called upon to conduct a spectacular terrorist attack. We do not believe this for two reasons. First, because the pressure on the core al Qaeda leadership to conduct an attack in the United States has been so high for several years there is no reason that it would not have activated any sleepers by now. It would certainly not be in the group’s best interest to keep any such operatives idle for a decade, especially since U.S. intelligence has made such headway in rolling up the organization. Al Qaeda has been faced with a use-it-or-lose-it scenario.

Second, while there is a long history of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups employing covert operatives and inspiring jihadist grassroots operatives or lone wolves like Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, there is no history of al Qaeda employing true sleeper operatives, that is, operatives who burrow undetected into a society and then remain dormant until called upon to act. Because of this, we remain extremely skeptical that al Qaeda has ever had a sleeper network in the United States. If it had, it would have used it by now.

Would the al Qaeda core leadership like to conduct a spectacular terrorist attack on the 9/11 anniversary? Absolutely. Does it have the capability? That is unlikely.

A Grassroots Focus

As we noted in our annual jihadist forecast, we believe the greatest threat to the United States and the rest of the West in 2011 emanates from grassroots jihadists and regional franchises. However, the civil war in Yemen and developments in Somalia have preoccupied the attention of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Shabaab — the two regional jihadist franchises that have shown the intent and capability to conduct transnational attacks — leaving them very little opportunity to do so. Therefore, we believe the greatest threat of an attack on the 9/11 anniversary will come from the grass roots.

The bad news is that grassroots operatives can be hard to identify, especially if they operate alone; the good news is that they tend to be far less capable than well-trained, more “professional” terrorist operatives. And this means they are more likely to make critical mistakes that will allow their attacks to be detected and thwarted.

As the past few years have demonstrated, there are almost certainly grassroots jihadists operating in small cells or as lone wolves who are presently planning attacks. In fact, we know that since at least 1990 there has not been a time when some group of grassroots jihadists somewhere in the United States has not been planning some kind of attack.

Is it possible, then, that such individuals could be inspired to try to conduct an attack on the 9/11 anniversary if they can coordinate their attack cycle in order to be ready on that date. However, given the increased law enforcement vigilance that will be in place at hard targets on that day and the capabilities of most grassroots operatives, we can anticipate that such an attempt would be conducted against a soft target rather than some more difficult target such as the 9/11 Memorial or the White House. We also believe that any such attack would likely continue the trend we have seen away from bombing attacks toward more simple (and effective) armed assaults.

It must be remembered that simple terrorist attacks are relatively easy to conduct, especially if the assailant is not concerned about escaping after the attack. As jihadist groups such as AQAP have noted in their online propaganda, a determined person can conduct attacks using a variety of simple weapons, from a pickup truck to a knife, axe or gun. Jihadist ideologues have repeatedly praised Nidal Hassan and have pointed out that jihadists operating with modest expectations and acting within the scope of their training and capability can do far more damage than operatives who try to conduct big, ambitious attacks that they lack the basic skills to complete.

And while the authorities in the United States and elsewhere have been quite successful in foiling attacks over the past couple of years, there are a large number of vulnerable targets in the open societies of the West, and Western governments simply do not have the resources to protect everything. Indeed, as long as the ideology of jihadism survives, its adherents will pose a threat.

All this means that some terrorist attacks will invariably succeed, but in the current context, it is our assessment that a simple attack in the United States or some other Western country is far more likely than a complex and spectacular 9/11-style operation. In their primary areas of operation, jihadists have the capability to do more than they do transnationally.

Indeed, despite the concept of a “war on terrorism,” the phenomenon of terrorism can never be completely eliminated, and terrorist attacks can and will be conducted by a wide variety of actors (recently illustrated by the July 22 attacks in Norway). However, as we’ve previously noted, if the public will recognize that terrorist attacks are part of the human condition like cancer or hurricanes, it can take steps to deny the practitioners of terrorism the ability to terrorize.

Why al Qaeda Is Unlikely To Execute Another 9/11 is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

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Monday, September 12th, 2011 Africa, Middle East, Public Safety, Terrorism, War No Comments
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