IFS Insights no. 3, November 2012
Title: The role of SWAT units
Author: Prem Mahadevan
Number of pages: 23
Should SWAT units respond differently to mass-casualty assault than to political hostage-taking?
Dr Prem Mahadevan looks at the cases of the Beslan 2004 school massacre, Mumbai 2008 and Oslo-Utøya 2011 and compares and contrasts the response of counterterrorist SWAT units.
He suggests that some terrorist threats have mutated over the years as a result of tactical innovation, becoming far more dangerous to unprotected ‘soft’ targets than was the case when SWAT capabilities first emerged in the 1970s. The question is then, how the current SWAT concept can develop a capacity for aggressively neutralising such threats before they cause heavy loss of life?
Dr Prem Mahadevan
is a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich, where he specialises in research on intelligence agencies, sub-state conflict and organised crime. He is currently writing a monograph on the role of special operations in combating insurgency and terrorism.