Mass slaughter in our schools: the terrorists’ chilling plan
Probably the last place you want to think of terrorists striking is your kids’ school. But according to two trainers at an anti-terrorism conference on the East Coast, preparations for attacks on American schools that will bring rivers of blood and staggering body counts are well underway in Islamic terrorist camps.
• The intended attackers have bluntly warned us they’re going to do it.
• They’re already begun testing school-related targets here.
• They’ve given us a catastrophic model to train against, which we’ve
largely ignored and they’ve learned more deadly tactics from.
“We don’t know for sure what they will do. But by definition, a successful attack is one we are not ready for,” declared one of the instructors, Lt.Col. Dave Grossman. Our schools fit that description to a “T”—as in Terrorism and Threat.
Grossman, the popular law enforcement motivational speaker, and Todd Rassa, a trainer with the SigArms Academy and an advisory board member for The Police Marksman magazine, shared a full day’s agenda on the danger to U.S. schools at a recent three-day conference on terrorist issues, sponsored by the International Assn. of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI) in Atlantic City.
They reminded the audience that patrol officers, including perhaps some with their own children involved, will inevitably be the first responders when terrorists hit. And they documented chilling descriptions of the life-or-death challenges that likely will be faced.
In Part 1 of this two-part report on highlights of their presentations we focus on what’s known about the threat to our schools to date, why terrorists have selected them as targets, and what tactics you’re likely to be up against in responding to a sudden strike.
In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll explore Grossman’s and Rassa’s recommendations for practical measures you and your agency can take now to get ready, including some defensive actions that don’t require any budget allocations.
1. Our values. “The most sacred thing to us is our children, our babies,” Rassa said. Killing hundreds of them at a time would significantly “boost Islamic morale and lower that of the enemy” (us). In Grossman’s words, terrorists see this effort as “an attempt to defile our nation” by leaving it “stunned to its soul.”
2. Our lack of preparation. Police agencies “aren’t used to this,” Rassa said. “We deal with acts of a criminal nature. This is an act of war,” but because of our laws “we can’t depend on the military to help us,” at least at the outset.
Indeed, Grossman claimed, “the U.S. in the one nation in the world where the military is not the first line of defense against domestic terrorist attacks. By law, you the police officer are our Delta Force. It is your job to go in, while in most other nations cops will wait for the military to come save their kids.”
School personnel, Rassa said, “are not even close” to being either mentally or physically prepared. “Most don’t even have response plans for handling a single active shooter. Their world is taught to nurture and care for people. They don’t want to deal with this.”
The American public, “sticking their heads in the sand, can’t be mentally prepared,” he said. “They’re going to freak when it happens,” their stubborn denial making the crisis “all the more shocking.”
Noting that “sheep have two speeds: ‘grazing’ and ‘stampede,’” Grossman predicted that “not a parent in the nation will send their kids to school the next day”—perhaps for many days—after a large-scale terrorist massacre. If day-care centers—“also on the terrorists’ list”—are hit as well, “parents will drop out of the work force” en masse to protect their children and “our economy will be devastated.”
How we know they’re coming.
Al-Qaeda has publicly asserted the “right” to kill 2,000,000 American children, Rassa explained, and has warned that “operations are in stages of preparation” now. He played vivid videotapes confiscated in Afghanistan, showing al-Qaeda terrorists practicing the takeover of a school. The trainees issue commands in English, rehearse separating youngsters into manageable groups and meeting any resistance with violence. Some “hostages” are taken to the rooftop, dangled over the edge, then “shot.”
“Any place that has given [Islamic terrorists] trouble, they’ve come after the kids,” Grossman said. Muslim religious literature, according to Rassa, states clearly that the killing of children not only is “permitted” in Islam but is “approved” by Mohammed, so long as the perpetrators “are striving for the general good” as interpreted by that religion.
He cited instances in Indonesia where girls on their way to school have been beheaded and in other countries where children have been shot, mutilated, raped or burned alive.
In this country this year [’06], Rassa said, there have been several school bus-related incidents involving Middle Eastern males that raise suspicion of terrorist activity. These include the surprise boarding of a school bus in Florida by two men in trench coats, who may have been on a canvassing mission, and the attempt in New York State by an Arab male to obtain a job as a school bus driver using fraudulent Social Security documents. The latter gave an address in Detroit, home to a large colony of fundamentalist Muslims. Rassa claimed that floor plans for half a dozen schools in Virginia, Texas and New Jersey have been recovered from terrorist hands in Iraq.
The terrorists’ tactical model.
A “dress rehearsal for what terrorists plan to do to us” has already taken place, Rassa and Grossman agreed. That was the brutal takedown in 2004 of a school that served children from 6 to 17 years old in Beslan, Russia. Some 100 terrorists were involved, nearly half of whom were discreetly embedded in the large crowd of parents, staff and kids who showed up for the first day of school; the rest arrived for the surprise attack in SUVs, troop carriers and big sedans. Across a three-day siege, 700 people were wounded and 338 killed, including 172 youngsters.
If a similar assault were launched against a school in your jurisdiction, how would you and your agency respond? Consider this modest sampling of challenges that were deliberately planned or arose from the ensuing chaos at Beslan, as outlined by Rassa:
• The school was chosen because it was one of the taller buildings in the area and had a very complicated floor plan, making a rapid and effective counter-assault by responders extremely difficult. Offender weaponry included AK-47s, sniper rifles, RPGs and explosives, with everything the terrorists needed carried in on their backs. RPGs were fired at a responding military helicopter and at troops.
• More than 1,000 men, women and children, including babies, were penned inan unventilated gym and a cafeteria. As the days passed without food or water and inside temperatures rose to 115 degrees, survivors were eating flowers they’d brought for teachers and fighting for urine to drink out of their shoes in desperation. Women and some children were repeatedly and continuously raped.
• Adult males and larger male students were used as “forced labor” to help fortify the building, then shot to death. Bodies were thrown out of an upper-story window, down onto a courtyard. Attempts at negotiation by responders were used by the terrorists strictly as an opportunity to buy time to solidify their fortifications.
• Surviving hostages were surrounded by armed guards standing on deadman switches, wired to explosives. All entrances to the building as well as stairwells and some interior doorways were booby-trapped. Youngsters were forced to sit on window sills to serve as shields for snipers. “Black widows” (potential suicide bombers) were rigged so their bomb belts could be detonated by remote control when leaders considered the timing was right. The terrorists stayed cranked up on some type of amphetamine to keep awake.
• Armed, outraged parents and other civilians, some of them drunk, showed up and started “rolling gunfights” outside in a futile effort to defeat the takeover. The crowd identified one embedded terrorist and “literally ripped him apart.” The media was everywhere, unrestrained. So many people were milling around that responders often could not establish a clear field of fire.
• When troops finally stormed the school in a counter-assault on the thirdday, “pure pandemonium” reigned. Soldiers and the kids they were trying to rescue were gunned down mercilessly. Explosions touched off inside started multiple fires.
• Responders who made it inside had to jump over trip wires as they “ran” up stairs under fire from above. By then terrorists were holding hostages in virtually every room. Rescue teams were subjected to continual ambushes. Gunfights occurred predominately within a 6-ft. range, with some responders having to fight for their lives in places so cramped they couldn’t get off their hands and knees.
• Some children successfully rescued from the building were so crazed by thirst that they ran to an outdoor spigot and were killed by a grenade as they filled their hands with water.
• Terrorists who escaped during the melee ran to homes of embedded sympathizers who hid them successfully and were not immediately suspected because they were considered “non-strangers” in the community. Some townspeople who volunteered to help as stretcher bearers for the injured were, in fact, embedded terrorists.
• During the siege “at least four people or agencies claimed to be in charge. Actually, no one was in charge and no one wanted to be.” “Osama bin Laden has promised that what has happened in Russia will happen to us many times over,” Grossman warned. “And Osama tries very hard never to lie to us.”
[For more details on this siege, Grossman recommends the book, “Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America’s Schools” (http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Beslan-Russian-Tragedy-Americas/dp/0976775301) ,
by John Giduck.]
What’s likely here.
Probably not so many terrorists involved at a single location. Moving that big a contingent into place would likely attract too much attention and thwart the attack. Grossman describes a more likely possibility, in his opinion: Terrorist cells of four operatives each will strike simultaneously at four different schools. They’ll probably pick middle schools with no police officers on site, where the girls are “old enough to rape” but students are not big enough to fight back effectively.
The targets will probably be in states “with no concealed-carry laws and no hunting culture” and in communities where “police do not have rifles.” Rural areas may be favored, where 30 minutes or more could be required for responders to arrive in force.
The attackers will “mow down every kid and teacher they see” as they move in to seize the school. They’ll plant bombs throughout the buildings, and “ rape, murder and throw out bodies like they did in Russia.” Emergency vehicles responding and children fleeing will be blown up by car bombs in the parking lot.
In all, 100 to 300 children could be slaughtered in a first strike. Terrorists capable of this are already embedded in communities “all over America,” Grossman and Rassa agreed. More will probably gain entry surreptitiously from Mexico, making southern California potentially a prime target.
No time for despair.
It’s a grim picture, for certain. “But if we think there’s nothing we can do to prepare, that is a defeatist mentality,” Rassa said. “We ought to be trying. If we’re not trying, we’re failing. We may as well give up our guns and surrender now.
“I can’t think of a better thing to train up for than protecting our kids. If we try but fall short, look at how much else we’ll still be able to handle than we can now.
“What made most of us do active-shooter training? The killings at Columbine. Are we going to wait for something far worse than that before we do the most that we can to stop the terrorists who are coming for our schools?”
[NEXT: Practical things you can do now to fight back. Plus, a provocative question: Is it time to start arming our teachers?]
About Charles Remsberg
Chuck co-founded the original Street Survival Seminar and the Street Survival Newsline, authored three of the best-selling law enforcement training textbooks, and helped produce numerous award-winning training videos. His nearly three decades of work earned him the prestigious O.W. Wilson Award for outstanding contributions to law enforcement and the American Police Hall of Fame Honor Award for distinguished achievement in public service.