Armed police and emergency services joined the SAS in Central London today for the UK’s largest counter-terror exercise. The 48 hour operation – codenamed Strong Tower – is in preparation for a “marauding attack” and involves simulated shootings across the capital. Over 1000 police and 400 hundred troops will take part.
The exercise comes just days after a gunman killed 38 people, mostly Britons, on a Tunisian beach. It follows other attacks of a similar nature on the streets of Sydney, Paris and Ottawa. The London exercise has been planned for six months and is said not to be related to any specific intelligence. Rather, it is part of a long-term strategy to ensure the UK is ready for any terror contingency.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said:
“Today’s exercise will test our people in how to respond to a terrorist threat and we will learn from the mistakes that we are bound to make today.
“Over the last year the rate of arrests has increased. We are arresting about one person a day for terrorist offences. It is clear during that time that we’ve disrupted some very serious plots and some of those cases are going to the courts.
“The reason we have exercises like today is because, obviously, we are concerned there are people planning terrorist events. We intend first of all to stop them from getting to attack. But should we not stop the terrorists in their planning, it’s essential we disrupt them in any of the attacks that may take place.”
The exercise has been orchestrated to challenge our security forces as much as possible and only dozen people are said to know the full script. Although much of the exercise is planned to take place out of public view, the public were warned to expect loud bangs and the area around the disused Aldwych tube station to be cordoned off.
The Met set up the hashtag #999exercise to keep the public updated. Passers by have been posting footage of the day’s action on Twitter.
— David Clinch (@DavidClinchNews) June 30, 2015
— Nick Hawkins (@nickawk) June 30, 2015