CTC Sentinel | Volume 10, Issue 5 (May 2017)

Published by Combating Terrorism Center

Cover Story Overview

In the early hours of June 12, 2016, an Islamic State-inspired gunman carried out the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, shooting dead 49 people in an Orlando nightclub. The attacker was finally killed after a three-hour hostage standoff, leading to questions raised in the media over the police response. One year later, Frank Straub, Jennifer Zeunik, and Ben Gorban look at the lessons learned from the police response to the Orlando and San Bernardino terrorist attacks based on critical incident reviews they conducted for the Police Foundation. In our cover article, they outline how regular police units who were first to respond to the attacks were faced with chaos and “unimaginable devastation … with victims begging for help, people dying, and others who were already deceased” as well as adversaries armed with powerful weapons with explosives or making threats to use them against hostages. The authors argue that with the Islamic State calling for attacks in all 50 U.S. states, police forces across the country need to adapt their training and equipment to prepare for IED, suicide bombing, and hostage situations. Their review found that while Orlando police followed current best practices designed to avoid the deaths of hostages and unreasonable danger to police, new protocols may be necessary for terrorist hostage attacks. In our interview this month, James Gagliano, a former counterterrorist operator for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, argues that with Islamic State-inspired hostage-takers seeking to kill as many as possible before being killed themselves, the new guidance in these cases should be for law enforcement to more quickly or immediately implement rescue plans to save as many hostages as possible.

John Horgan, Mia Bloom, Chelsea Daymon, Wojciech Kaczkowski, and Hicham Tiflati examine the Islamic State’s older fighters. As the group finds it increasingly difficult to replace its fighters, preliminary evidence documented by the Georgia State University researchers suggests an emerging and increasingly aggressive role for older adults, especially as suicide bombers. Michele Groppi warns the terrorist threat to Italy may come to resemble that in France because of growing societal tensions. Franc Milburn provides an overview of Iranian Kurdish insurgent groups, who he argues may emerge as significant players in the region.

Paul Cruickshank, Editor in Chief