Last Thursday, ISIS terrorists conducted a series of coordinated attacks in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. As has been the trend worldwide, these coordinated or “symphonic” attacks involved guns, bombs, and grenades. Up to 14 terrorists conducted the attacks on seven locations in a period of three hours. If you haven’t seen the news about this attack, check out the following two news articles:
Why should we care about what happens in a third world country thousands of miles from home? Because that’s where these terrorists refine their tactics. What we are seeing over there is likely to be what we will see in the United States soon.
What makes these attacks any different than other terrorist attacks worldwide? Despite being characterized as “amateurish” by police officials, these attacks had several elements that we have not seen in other recent attacks. Let’s take a quick look:
Lots of attackers armed with both bombs and guns. Many recent symphonic attacks have involved groups of two to six terrorists. Initial reports of this one indicate that there were up to 14. Obviously, the more attackers involved, the more difficult it is to stop the attack. This level of violence would be extremely difficult to stop by an American police department. Most police divisions are cut to the bare minimum. There just aren’t that many cops working in a particular area at the same time.
My suburban agency covers 10 square miles and 34,000 residents with just five officers out on the street. One of these attacks (let alone seven) would completely tie up all of our manpower. We can call for backup from surrounding agencies, but that takes time. Every additional minute of time in an attack like this means a higher body count. Citizens need to recognize that the police cannot protect you from an event of this magnitude. Eventually, we’ll get enough cops there and kill the terrorists. But until that time, you are on your own.
Check out the photo below from one of the linked articles. That’s the armament that two of the dead terrorists had remaining in their backpacks. These guys were rolling heavy. Do you think you might need to carry something more than a NAA mini revolver if you want to be a player in this game? I do.
Before I move on, one quick point. The items above were taken from the terrorists’ BACKPACKS. Note the BACKPACK on the terrorist pictured at the start of the article. Taking a look at all the major recent terrorist attacks and bombings worldwide will show some amazing similarities. Almost all of the attackers carried gear in backpacks as they were conducting their attacks. That might be one of the few pre-incident indicators you might be able to pick up. How many people wear backpacks in malls or while walking down the street? Unless you are on a college campus, not many. If you see multiple young adult males acting in concert with each other while wearing backpacks, it might be time to make yourself scarce.
They initiated the attack with a bombing of a police station. Remember how I talked above about not having enough cops to stop an attack like this? What do you think happens when half of them are taken out before the main attack even begins? This is becoming a prime strategy for terrorists and active killers everywhere. Start the attack by taking out anyone who may be a threat to your plans.
What actionable advice can we draw from this tactic? One is to avoid police stations! They are no longer the refuge of safety that you might think they are. Any cops working in substations near valuable terrorist targets need to make sure that they are prepared to deal with this kind of attack. Very few are. The cops in police stations are often unarmed. Most police stations have holding cells. Cops have to lock up their guns for safety reasons when handling prisoners inside the cell area. Many other cops in the station are assigned administrative or investigative roles. They often are not wearing body armor and may not even be carrying guns. That has to stop.
Second, recognize that the attackers want to take out any potential resistance before the start of the attack. The concept is important for armed citizens and off duty cops as well. Don’t look like a cop! What do you think these folks would do if they “made” you as a cop? That’s right. You’re shot in the back of the head as the attack commences. Don’t wear cop clothes. Save your 5.11 gear for the range. No FOP placards or “thin blue line” logos on your personal vehicles. Be the “gray man.”
And citizens, what do you think they would do if they spotted an open carrier? Do you think the outcome would be any different than what they would do to an off duty cop? You are a threat to their operation. You will be taken out first. I know you think that you practice perfect awareness at all times. You may be pretty situationally tuned in, but can you detect ALL 14 TERRORISTS? Doubtful. Open carry makes you a target. Don’t do it.
Suicide bombs and grenades. This factor compounds the response from either the cops or an armed citizen. In a recent study of suicide bombings in Israel, they concluded that a distance of 15 meters (roughly 50 feet) is the “break even” safety zone for a suicide bomb blast. That means that if you are within 15 meters of the bomb when it blows up, you are more likely to die than to live. Beyond 15 meters and you are more likely to live than die.
One of the bomber was being filmed as he detonated in this case. Watch the video of the detonation below. You don’t want to be anywhere near that blast.
What does this mean for you first responders? It means that engagement at a long distance is required if you don’t want to be blown up. How often have you been practicing your shots from beyond the 15-yard line?
Security personnel mixed in to the crowd. Suicide bombers worldwide often have “security” folks or “handlers” nearby to take out any resistance that threatens the bombing mission’s success. The terrorists used this technique here as well. From one of the linked news articles:
“After the initial shootout two attackers appeared from behind a crowd. One then produced a handgun and shot an officer, while his accomplice fired on another.”
Two attackers blended in with the crowd and waited for the police to engage the primary active killer. While the cops were shooting at what they assumed was the sole terrorist, two more popped up and fired on the cops.
That’s tough to deal with. Most of us will get “tunnel vision” in any gunfight. It’s hard to focus on other things when you are trying to put rounds into a man who is shooting at you. Very few of us has the ability to multi-task to such a degree that we could pick up any of these “security” people.
If you choose to engage a terrorist in an event like this, put him down as soon as possible. Then immediately start scanning for more targets. It might be smart to get your back up against a wall before you choose to engage so as to ensure that no one will whack you in the back of the head while you are lining up your sights.
Sniper Overwatch. From the Guardian article: “Explosions were captured on video in the forecourt of an adjacent Starbucks, where a gunman was seen on the roof.”
This is a whole new level of danger for anyone trying to respond. It’s bad enough that there are unidentified terrorists mixed in to the crowd, but when there are snipers on the roof waiting to take you out, your problem becomes exponentially difficult to handle.
For the cops out there, look up! We don’t do it enough. Deploying counter snipers to the high ground during an event like this should also be a police priority, but few departments will have the resources or trained personnel to do that.
Let’s lay out the scenario. Look at the photo below (from the Daily Mail) of the initial gunman in the attack. Picture yourself at the scene. You are an armed citizen or off duty cop. If you were in the position of the camera man, could you take that shot?
It doesn’t look that tough, right? Full-on torso on an adult male from maybe 40 feet away? I’m betting most of you reading this could take him out. But let’s take a look at the un-examined complications here:
- What is your backstop in the event you miss? A crowd of several hundred people. Still want to take that shot?
- See the backpack on his chest? It’s full of home made bombs and grenades. If you hit it, they will probably blow up. Where are you aiming? Center mass? Boom. You’re dead. You are inside the 15 meter “break even” zone. Game over.
- What you don’t see is the two other terrorists in the crowd behind you. As soon as you engage this guy, you get shot in the back of the head. Bang. Game over.
- If you happen to not hit any innocents, avoid shooting the bomb, take out the shooter and his two accomplices, you think you are the hero. Wrong. You didn’t see the sniper on the roof. Game over. Again.
Do you see how the odds are stacked against you in a situation like this? Look, I get it. We all want to do the right thing, save the girl, and win the medal. I want to do that, too. But I also want to make it home to the people I love. That isn’t very likely if I jump into a fight like this with the my five-shot .38 snub.
All of us who carry guns need a little wake-up call. Stopping a terrorist attack like this isn’t heroic, it’s a suicide mission. Is it worth it?
If you are willing to engage, you have my respect and admiration. I commend your bravery. If you make it out alive, I’ll buy you a beer….but I think the more likely scenario is that I’ll be drinking a beer by myself at your wake.
Terrorist tactics are becoming ever more lethal. Dealing with something like this isn’t quite the same thing as drawing down on a crackhead with a broken bottle in a back alley. As my hero says: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Fighting 14 terrorists who are armed with bombs and grenades who also have sniper overwatch? That exceeds my personal limitations. You may be studlier than I am, but I bet it exceeds yours as well.
A smart armed man or woman caught up in a situation like this should be looking to get the hell out. You aren’t playing the leading role in Die Hard. This isn’t your mission.
Draw your gun, but keep it hidden.
Seek immediate cover.
Run away from the attack using a series of short sprints in between other points of cover if possible.
If a terrorist pops up and hinders your escape, shoot him in the face and keep running.
Repeat as necessary until you are out of the danger zone.
Unless I’m at work, have my plate armor, an AR-15, and a whole bunch of my buddies with me, that’s my plan. I think the smart gun owner should consider something similar.