RALF KASSNER is a former special forces member and mission leader of the German anti-terrorist groups GSG9 and SEK. He has instructed and trained with most of the European special teams, to include the GIGN, SAS, Le Raid, GOE, as well as Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, HRT, and more. He is now the CEO of Wodan Security.
SOFREP: You have carried out close protection operations in Nice, how do you regard the recent terrorist attack?
Ralf Kassner: I have operated several times in Nice this year and during my time there we observed several Gendarme and Military operations, especially in the area of the Massena square, a popular tourist location. During our operational preparation we also came across a number of terror warnings for the Côte D’azur.
The Nice attack is once again a cowardly act that indiscriminately killed innocent people including many women and children. Tactically, from the terrorist’s viewpoint, the attack was well thought out and executed, targeting the celebrations on a National Holiday. I emphasise this because as with many other attacks it indicates a high level of preparation by the terrorists. I also believe that the security forces present in Nice were only able to identify the attack as such fairly late, which made the response extremely difficult.
SOFREP: In your opinion were the security measures for this large scale event insufficient? Or is it just too easy to act as a mass murderer?
Ralf Kassner: Well, the way I see it you have to be pretty disturbed to indiscriminately kill innocent people under the guise of religion or fanaticism. However you don’t necessarily need a firearm, which is why I cannot understand the whole discussion about increasing firearms laws! Are they going to restrict truck licences now? A terrorist intent on committing an atrocity will use any means imaginable! With regards to your question about the security measures I will remain by my principle of not judging a situation in which I was not involved. The French security forces have extensive anti-terrorist experience and did an excellent job during the European Soccer Championships. If we retrospectively start to question why there were no tank barriers and so on, well we could then argue that terrorists could drive a motorbike loaded with explosives into the crowd. There are so many conceivable scenarios that it is impossible to prepare for, or prevent everything. No country in the world can do that!
SOFREP: To put it another way, do Executive Protection personnel even have a chance at preventing a surprise attack by a lone-wolf terrorist who apparently has no connections to an organisation?
Ralf Kassner: I think that without information from intelligence agencies or tip-offs from inside the terrorist’s circle it is extremely difficult to prevent such attacks. The terrorist does however have to plan the attack and carry out reconnaissance to that end. The Nice attacker was reportedly at the scene of the attack several times before the incident. If the terrorist acts in a manner which draws attention to themselves, such as taking photos or videos, then there is a small chance that protective personnel could be alerted. This is a slim chance however as terrorists will try to blend in with their surroundings, shaving off their beards and wearing everyday clothing. In protective security operations I can only advise the principal not to visit certain countries or attend certain events. However many clients resist such advice… This means that the team has to pay extra attention to their operational preparation, establish contingency plans, recruit additional local personnel, and identify safe houses and much more.
SOFREP: We have seen that to carry out mass murder, any means available, from an AK to a suicide belt, from an aircraft to a car or even a knife can be effective. How does this affect society’s basic need for security?
Ralf Kassner: I believe that is more a question for the politicians, this topic will almost certainly be used during election campaigns. Statements such as; ‘Further information would be too disturbing…’ do nothing to reassure the public. We have been lucky so far in Germany, but due to the proximity of France and Belgium our immediate neighbours and the attacks in various tourist regions the Germans are becoming more cautious in their choice of holiday destinations. This is understandable but it does play into the hands of the terrorists as their aims include destabilising various countries, especially countries that rely on tourism (Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt).
SOFREP: Daesh has succeeded time and again in instigating (Paris, Brussels) or inspiring (Nice) severe attacks, on the other hand they do not appear to be capable of launching a regular, Europe wide terror offensive. How do you see the perspective development of terrorism in Europe?
Ralf Kassner: We live in Europe and of course we look at the situation close to home first, but terrorism is international and it should therefore be viewed globally. This year there have been more than 160 terrorist attacks with more the 1,200 victims worldwide. Not only carried out be IS but also Hamas, Boko Haram and many others. Typically terrorists chose so called soft targets, hotels, clubs, restaurants, large events, tourist attractions as well as trains and bus stops. Terror creates uncertainty worldwide and affects not only our soldiers and security forces but can affect anyone. Whether there will ever be a political solution, I honestly doubt, but the half-hearted air attacks only achieve limited short term effects.
SOFREP: Some of the media are speculating over the mental state of the Nice attacker, in order to label the attack as an act of madness. Are there any doubts that this was indeed an islamist terrorist attack?
Ralf Kassner: According to the latest information he had been increasingly radicalised and allegedly had contacts to backers from whom he had requested further weapons. If these reports are accurate then there is little doubt. However, compared to other attacks, IS took their time in claiming this one.
SOFREP: How can we prepare ourselves for such a situation? How can we protect ourselves?
Ralf Kassner: Normal citizens should choose their holiday destinations carefully and acquaint themselves with the local situation. Awareness is a requirement these days, and everyone should carry out their own security management, what will I do if…? Additional first aid training is always beneficial. Security personnel need to prepare themselves for extreme situations, as we trained at our International Bodyguard Conference in July in the Czech Republic. In this day and age we need to review our planning, tactics, training and equipment as things are unlikely to get better!
Interview by Jürgen Hatzenbichler, spartanat.com
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This article originally published on SOFREP 07.18.2016