How we will respond to airport terrorism- NAF

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Wednesday conducted a counter-terrorism simulation exercise involving the insertion and extraction of Special Forces operating in conjunction with other organic security agencies and organisations to retake the airport from terrorists and ensure normalcy of operations.

How we will respond to airport terrorism- NAF
Terrorists holding passengers hostage

The exercise  which was code-named “Steel Dome “ which means Fortified Arena  was conducted by the men of the Air Force Regiment- a special force operations team made up of commandos and other specially trained officers deployed for counter terrorism operations.

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”60438″]

The Air Force Regiment was founded after the breach of the Air Force base in Maiduguri, Borno state on December 2, 2013 by Boko Haram insurgents. Since then, the Regiment has deployed Special Forces personnel throughout the country.

The Airport counter terrorism simulation according to Air Force Director of Public Information, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, is to answer the question: “When you have a terrorist situation in your airport, what do you do?”  Steel Dome was to show what the NAF will do.

The exercise began with a briefing by Air Commodore Olusesan Idowu, the Director, Regiment Headquarters of the NAF in a small room at the northern corner of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.

The briefing highlighted the objectives of the exercise which include: Practice individual/group skills in the planning, coordination and execution of counter –terrorist operations; understand the requirements and challenges involved in the coordination and conduct counter terrorist operations in concert with other security agencies; derive lessons that will guide Directorate of  Regiment in drawing up a doctrine and planning guide for the conduct of airport counter- terrorist operations and reaffirm  the NAF commitment to support civil authority in times of national emergencies.

But the planning of the response to terrorism belongs to the Commander Quick Response Force Minna, Air Commodore Mishelia who in a business-like manner informed the gathering that a group of terrorists have taken some passengers hostage at the departure lounge of the airport.

The Hostages and the terrorists

About 40 members of the Special Forces were involved in the rescue operations of the passengers.  The departure terminal was cordoned off and troops positioned strategically before the entrance of the terminal, every angle leading to the terminal was covered by different personnel of the Special Force.

Inside the terminal, troops were positioned to cover every available exit space, everywhere one turns, there is a soldier armed, fierce and ready. Behind the counters, air conditioners and desks, mean looking soldiers were ready with their guns. But airport activities went unabated, with some passengers expressing shock at the presence of the troops.

Intermittently, the announcer would inform that the NAF was conducting a counter terrorism response simulation and all passengers were to continue their business.

But such admonition was hardly heeded.

At 9:30 am, a Super Puma helicopter of the NAF usually deployed for insertion and extraction of troops in emergency situation appeared in the sky above the airport terminal.

Its arrival was heralded by a loud noise; troops on the ground gave the aircraft covering fire as the Special Forces began to descend using a rope into the airport.

In all, eight soldiers descended directly into the terminal space. It will be their duty to surprise the terrorists who are holding the passengers hostage in the departure area.

At the departure ticketing area, passengers huddled together in awe of the spectacular scenario playing out.  There was a soldier at every turn and corner. Air Force evaluators wearing pink jackets carefully followed the process, checking every detail and making notes in big logbooks.  Upstairs at the departure lounge, a serious, almost real time situation was playing out.

Six terrorists all armed with rifles, covering their faces with masks have detained 12 male passengers. The hostages were made to lie down on the floor in the middle of the lounge while the terrorists torture them.  Slaps, kicks and punches were rained on the captives, bags were kicked in fury and the terrorists ensured the captives were reduced to fear.

“Do you want to fight?” a terrorist asked one terrified passenger. Instead of a response, the man simply said he was tired and would never visit this country again. Another hostage lamented his ill-fated travel with a vow never to return if he could just get out alive.  A terrorist gave him a slap, he fell to the floor and a kick in the groin sent him face flat. He did not move for a long time. None of the actors in this terrible drama smiled, none of them betrayed any emotion.

It was not clear what the terrorists were waiting for, it was not certain if a line of communication had been established with a government negotiator, it was also not clear if the terrorists had made any demands.

What happened next was a scene out of an action packed movie.  A shot rang out suddenly followed by five others in quick succession.

Four soldiers burst into the lounge; their forceful entry in a blaze of unending bullets sent the terrorists scampering for cover. A shot hit a terrorist; he fell, his rifle hitting the ground first.

“Alpha 1 to Alpha 2, evacuate terrorists and hostages over,” one could hear over the radio. The hostages were on their faces, there was a lot of scream and shouts of “I don’t want to die” as the Special Forces tried to reassure them.

The communication between the Special Forces was effective but the terrorists would not go down easily. Shots were heard, Alpha one called for back-up. Some of the Special Forces who were earlier inserted through the chopper came in from the staircase, a search was made and one terrorist was found, crouching behind a chair, he was disarmed and arrested. In all four of the terrorists were arrested while two died.

One soldier was also wounded, his colleagues gathered around to help him. The lounge was evacuated. The whole operation had taken five minutes, six seconds before the Police anti-bomb squad arrived to check if there were any bombs left by the terrorists.




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.