Oct. 1, 2010
(CBS) Counterterrorism officials think Osama bin Laden was involved in the latest terror plot that caused a lot of anxiety this week in Europe. Officials say that plot, which was disrupted at an early stage, was based on the commando-style attack on Mumbai, India, two years ago.
Since then, the New York City police department has revamped its anti-terrorist training to prevent that kind of attack from happening here.
The Mumbai attack – called “India’s Sept. 11” – killed 172 people. Ten men armed with little more than automatic weapons and grenades terrorized an entire city for 60 hours. Eight thousand miles away it also rang alarm bells in the New York Police Department, where Commissioner Ray Kelly knows his city could be next.
“New York is the top of the terrorist target list. That’s our operating premise,” said Kelly.
As the attacks were still going on, the NYPD sent three officers to Mumbai. Back in this New York police department command post, Lt. Kevin Yorke began studying the intelligence.
“This is an effective, simple and easy to copy tactic,” said Yorke.
Since Sept. 11 the NYPD, alone among U.S. police departments, has posted officers in 11 cities overseas, reports CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy. Their job is to rush to the scene of any terrorist attack – like Madrid in 2004 – and see what lessons they can learn to protect New York City.
“We changed our deployment around the train stations almost instantly based upon that attack,” said Yorke. “The same day, within hours.”
Mumbai revealed a whole new set of challenges with commando-style terrorists – so-called “active shooters” – simultaneously attacking multiple locations and overwhelming local police.
“The New York Police Department prides itself on its firearm restraint. This forces them to rethink that and to be willing to use deadly force,” said Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College.
One of the key lessons the New York police learned from Mumbai was the need to move quickly and aggressively against an active shooter-type attack. For that reason they are constantly deploying their rapid response teams without any advance warnings all over the city of New York.
Since Mumbai, the NYPD has trained to deal with multiple attacks at the same time and the cops can now quickly access building plans for hotels and other soft targets, something the Mumbai police lacked, causing delays and more casualties.
The NYPD fully expects terrorists to copy the Mumbai attacks elsewhere. The job of the police is to make it as difficult as possible to stage any such attack in New York City.