Guardian News and Media London
More than 200 armed police have practised their response to a terrorist attack on a Thames “pleasure boat” in the first drill of its kind on London’s main river.
A sightseeing ship became the scene of a fierce mock gun battle between armed officers and police posing as terrorists shortly after 11am yesterday. The exercise, close to the London Docklands area, marks the first time the Metropolitan police have staged a live, waterborne exercise like this.
Armed officers boarded the ship in a hail of gunfire just over two hours after five officers posing as armed terrorists hijacked the vessel. At least one “body”, played by a volunteer, was thrown overboard.
The Met, the Port of London Authority, London Coastguard, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), London ambulance service and London fire brigade took part in the exercise aimed at testing the effectiveness of emergency rescue tactics in lifelike conditions. The drill was designed to test every phase of the emergency response – from the moment an incident is reported to the conclusion of a rescue operation.
Commander BJ Harrington, head of the Met’s public order command, said the exercise was not in response to any specific intelligence about an impending marine attack. But he noted that recent terrorist incidents in the rest of Europe showed how would-be attackers have found varied ways to inflict harm.
He said: “It’s important to point out that the exercise has not been designed in response to any specific threat. There’s no information that we have that we’re preparing for. “Of course, we have seen a number of incidents abroad in the past few years: Nice, Berlin – we have seen different methodologies developing, and, of course, the river runs right through London, so why wouldn’t we prepare for that.”
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