The horrific terrorist attack in a busy shopping mall in Nairobi, in September 2013, was a counter-terrorist team’s worst nightmare. Well trained militants with a detailed knowledge of the building, armed to the teeth with heavy weaponry and explosives slaying innocent weekend shoppers.
Knowledge is absolutely crucial in the fight against terrorism because it provides the anti-terrorist and security teams with information about their enemy and the best tactics to use to get the job done quickly and safely. Like most hostage rescue and counter-terrorism operations, the security teams at Nairobi must have found it challenging to build an accurate picture of the number, status, and weaponry of the terrorists involved to help them plan an appropriate course of action. While the sight of assault teams using abseil lines, hurling stun grenades and setting off frame charges may be the stuff of Hollywood, the information gathered from survivors’ mobile phones and images captured on CCTV cameras inside and around the Westgate Shopping Centre would have quickly made it clear to the security forces that this tactic would have been fraught with enormous dangers.
It would appear that the militants had rounded hostages, split into groups and holed themselves in various locations across the shopping mall. Security teams had the unenviable task of having to mount multiple hostage rescue operations against brutal and well-armed terrorists. They would not have wanted a repeat of the 2008 Mumbai Massacre, where militants launched a series of co-ordinated shooting and bombing attacks which ripped through the heart of India’s largest city, leaving hundreds dead and scores more injured.
Although not every aspect of the Nairobi assault team’s available intelligence and equipment will be revealed, going by the media reports at the time of the assaults, one tactic pursued by the security forces was to inch their way through the building room by room. In such scenarios, using conventional explosive charges is extremely dangerous because you run the risk of inadvertently injuring and killing with explosions and debris the very people you are trying to save on the other side of the wall. In such situations, non-lethal methods of entry become part of the mix you call upon.
A device being used by the world’s elite forces for non-lethal hostage rescue and to punch the first entry point into a building is the ‘Wall-Breaker’. Terrorists will not expect a response team’s point of entry to be straight through a solid wall, the floor or ceiling. This clever portable pneumatic device which can also be vehicle mounted for greater operational flexibility and rapidity fires a charge – a standard 22 kg office water cooler bottle filled with water at a velocity of 94 metres per second – and that impact can smash through a double layer breeze-block to create entry holes for assault teams.
The advantage of using water is that on impact the casing shatters and it just sprays out water. As a result hostages on the other side of the breached wall are far less likely to be seriously injured. It also means that unlike traditional methods of entry, security teams can stand much closer to the point of entry, enabling a fast and effective entry for a maximum surprise impact. The Wall Breaker can come with a variety of projectiles designed to perform specific jobs. One of those projectiles can pepper an area laced with tripwires with gum balls traveling at 300 metres per second to safely trigger the booby traps. Your office chats next to the humble water cooler will never be the same.
By: Philippe Minchin
For more about the author Click Here