Counter-terrorism (also spelled counterterrorism) incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategies include attempts to counter financing of terrorism.

If terrorism is part of a broader insurgency, counter-terrorism may employ counter-insurgency measures. The United States Armed Forces use the term foreign internal defense for programs that support other countries in attempts to suppress insurgency, lawlessness, or subversion or to reduce the conditions under which these threats to security may develop.[1]

Yamam, one of Israel's counterterrorism units.
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge-NYC
Coast Guard on counterterrorism patrol in Upper New York Bay. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in distance spanning The Narrows between Brooklyn (left) and Staten Island (right).


Special Irish Branch
Special Branch detectives on an undercover operation at the London Docks, 1911.

In response to the escalating terror campaign in Britain carried out by the militant Irish Fenians in the 1880s, the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, established the first counter-terrorism unit ever. The Special Irish Branch was initially formed as a section of the Criminal Investigation Department of the London Metropolitan Police in 1883, to combat Irish republican terrorism through infiltration and subversion.

Harcourt envisioned a permanent unit dedicated to the prevention of politically motivated violence through the use of modern techniques such as undercover infiltration. This pioneering branch was the first to be trained in counter-terrorism techniques.[2]

Its name was changed to Special Branch as it had its remit gradually expanded[3] to incorporate a general role in counterterrorism, combating foreign subversion and infiltrating organized crime. Law enforcement agencies, in Britain and elsewhere, established similar units.[4]

Counterterrorism forces expanded with the perceived growing threat of terrorism in the late 20th century. Specifically, after the September 11 attacks, Western governments made counter-terrorism efforts a priority, including more foreign cooperation, shifting tactics involving red teams[5] and preventive measures.[6] Although sensational attacks in the developed world receive a great deal of media attention[7], most terrorism occurs in less developed countries.[8] Government responses to terrorism in some cases generate substantial unintended consequences.[9]


Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and domestic intelligence. The central activities are traditional: interception of communications, and the tracing of persons. New technology has, however, expanded the range of military and law enforcement operations.

לוחמי הקומנדו הימי
Shayetet 13, the Israeli naval special forces.

Domestic intelligence is often directed at specific groups, defined on the basis of origin or religion, which is a source of political controversy. Mass surveillance of an entire population raises objections on civil liberties grounds. Homegrown terrorists, especially lone wolves are often harder to detect because of their citizenship or legal status and ability to stay under the radar.

To select the effective action when terrorism appears to be more of an isolated event, the appropriate government organizations need to understand the source, motivation, methods of preparation, and tactics of terrorist groups. Good intelligence is at the heart of such preparation, as well as political and social understanding of any grievances that might be solved. Ideally, one gets information from inside the group, a very difficult challenge for HUMINT because operational terrorist cells are often small, with all members known to one another, perhaps even related.[10]

Counterintelligence is a great challenge with the security of cell-based systems, since the ideal, but nearly impossible, goal is to obtain a clandestine source within the cell. Financial tracking can play a role, as can communications intercept, but both of these approaches need to be balanced against legitimate expectations of privacy.

Legal contexts

In response to the growing legislation.

 United Kingdom
  • The United Kingdom has had anti-terrorism legislation in place for more than thirty years. The Prevention of Violence Act 1939 was brought in response to an Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign of violence under the S-Plan. This act had been allowed to expire in 1953 and was repealed in 1973 to be replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Acts a response to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. From 1974 to 1989 the temporary provisions of the act were renewed annually.
  • In 2000 the Acts were replaced with the more permanent Terrorism Act 2000, which contained many of their powers, and then the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
  • The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was formally introduced into the Parliament November 19, 2001 two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. It received royal assent and went into force on December 13, 2001. On December 16, 2004 the Law Lords ruled that Part 4 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, but under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998 it remained in force. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was drafted to answer the Law Lords ruling and the Terrorism Act 2006 creates new offences related to terrorism, and amends existing ones. The Act was drafted in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, and like its predecessors some of its terms have proven to be highly controversial.

Since 1978 the UK's terrorism laws have been regularly reviewed by a security-cleared Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, whose often influential reports are submitted to Parliament and published in full.

 United States
  • Australia has passed several anti-terrorism acts. In 2004, a bill comprising three acts Anti-terrorism Act, 2004, (No 2) and (No 3) was passed. Then Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, introduced the Anti-terrorism bill, 2004 on March 31. He described it as "a bill to strengthen Australia's counter-terrorism laws in a number of respects – a task made more urgent following the recent tragic terrorist bombings in Spain." He said that Australia's counter-terrorism laws "require review and, where necessary, updating if we are to have a legal framework capable of safeguarding all Australians from the scourge of terrorism." The Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 supplemented the powers of the earlier acts. The Australian legislation allows police to detain suspects for up to two weeks without charge and to electronically track suspects for up to a year. The Australian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 included a "shoot-to-kill" clause. In a country with entrenched liberal democratic traditions, the measures are controversial and have been criticized by civil libertarians and Islamic groups.
  • Israel monitors a list of designated terrorist organizations and has laws forbidding membership in such organizations, funding or helping them in any way.
  • On December 14, 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled targeted killings were a permitted form of self-defense.[12]
  • In 2016 the Israeli Knesset passed a comprehensive law against terrorism, forbidding any kind of terrorism and support of terrorism, and setting severe punishments for terrorists. The law also regulate legal efforts against terrorism.[13]

Human rights

John Walker Lindh Custody
John Walker Lindh was captured as an enemy combatant during the United States' 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

One of the primary difficulties of implementing effective counter-terrorist measures is the waning of civil liberties and individual privacy that such measures often entail, both for citizens of, and for those detained by states attempting to combat terror.[14] At times, measures designed to tighten security have been seen as abuses of power or even violations of human rights.[15]

Examples of these problems can include prolonged, incommunicado detention without judicial review or long periods of 'preventive detention';[16] risk of subjecting to torture during the transfer, return and extradition of people between or within countries; and the adoption of security measures that restrain the rights or freedoms of citizens and breach principles of non-discrimination.[17] Examples include:

  • In November 2003 Malaysia passed new counter-terrorism laws that were widely criticized by local human rights groups for being vague and overbroad. Critics claim that the laws put the basic rights of free expression, association, and assembly at risk. Malaysia persisted in holding around 100 alleged militants without trial, including five Malaysian students detained for alleged terrorist activity while studying in Karachi, Pakistan.[17]
  • In November 2003 a Canadian-Syrian national, Maher Arar, alleged publicly that he had been tortured in a Syrian prison after being handed over to the Syrian authorities by U.S.[17]
  • In December 2003 Colombia's congress approved legislation that would give the military the power to arrest, tap telephones and carry out searches without warrants or any previous judicial order.[17]
  • Images of unpopular treatment of detainees in US custody in Iraq and other locations have encouraged international scrutiny of US operations in the war on terror.[18]
  • Hundreds of foreign nationals remain in prolonged indefinite detention without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay, despite international and US constitutional standards some groups believe outlaw such practices.[18]
  • Hundreds of people suspected of connections with the Taliban or al Qa'eda remain in long-term detention in Pakistan or in US-controlled centers in Afghanistan.[18]
  • China has used the "war on terror" to justify its policies in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to stifle Uighur identity.[18]
  • In Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and other countries, scores of people have been arrested and arbitrarily detained in connection with suspected terrorist acts or links to opposition armed groups.[18]
  • Until 2005 eleven men remained in high security detention in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[18]

Many would argue that such violations could exacerbate rather than counter the terrorist threat.[17] Human rights advocates argue for the crucial role of human rights protection as an intrinsic part to fight against terrorism.[18][19] This suggests, as proponents of human security have long argued, that respecting human rights may indeed help us to incur security. Amnesty International included a section on confronting terrorism in the recommendations in the Madrid Agenda arising from the Madrid Summit on Democracy and Terrorism (Madrid March 8–11, 2005):

Democratic principles and values are essential tools in the fight against terrorism. Any successful strategy for dealing with terrorism requires terrorists to be isolated. Consequently, the preference must be to treat terrorism as criminal acts to be handled through existing systems of law enforcement and with full respect for human rights and the rule of law. We recommend: (1) taking effective measures to make impunity impossible either for acts of terrorism or for the abuse of human rights in counter-terrorism measures. (2) the incorporation of human rights laws in all anti-terrorism programmes and policies of national governments as well as international bodies."[18]

While international efforts to combat terrorism have focused on the need to enhance cooperation between states, proponents of human rights (as well as human security) have suggested that more effort needs to be given to the effective inclusion of human rights protection as a crucial element in that cooperation. They argue that international human rights obligations do not stop at borders and a failure to respect human rights in one state may undermine its effectiveness in the international effort to cooperate to combat terrorism.[17]

Preemptive neutralization

Some countries see preemptive attacks as a legitimate strategy. This includes capturing, killing, or disabling suspected terrorists before they can mount an attack. Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia have taken this approach, while Western European states generally do not.

Another major method of preemptive neutralization is interrogation of known or suspected terrorists to obtain information about specific plots, targets, the identity of other terrorists, whether or not the interrogation subjects himself is guilty of terrorist involvement. Sometimes more extreme methods are used to increase suggestibility, such as sleep deprivation or drugs. Such methods may lead captives to offer false information in an attempt to stop the treatment, or due to the confusion brought on by it. These methods are not tolerated by European powers. In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the Ireland v. United Kingdom case that such methods amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment, and that such practices were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights Article 3 (art. 3).


The human security paradigm outlines a non-military approach which aims to address the enduring underlying inequalities which fuel terrorist activity. Causal factors need to be delineated and measures implemented which allow equal access to resources and sustainability for all people. Such activities empower citizens providing 'freedom from fear' and 'freedom from want'.

This can take many forms including the provision of clean drinking water, education, vaccination programs, provision of food and shelter and protection from violence, military or otherwise. Successful human security campaigns have been characterized by the participation of a diverse group of actors including governments, NGOs, and citizens.

Foreign internal defense programs provide outside expert assistance to a threatened government. FID can involve both non-military and military aspects of counter-terrorism.

A 2017 study found that "governance and civil society aid is effective in dampening domestic terrorism, but this effect is only present if the recipient country is not experiencing a civil conflict."[20]


U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Burks, a squad leader with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, provides security during a mission rehearsal at Camp Bastion, Helmand province 130527-M-QZ858-089
U.S. Marines in Afghanistan

Terrorism has often been used to justify military intervention in countries like Pakistan where terrorists are said to be based. That was the main stated justification for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. It was also a stated justification for the second Russian invasion of Chechnya.

Military intervention has not always been successful in stopping or preventing future terrorism, like during the Malayan Emergency, the Mau Mau uprising, and most of the campaigns against the IRA during the Irish Civil War, the S-Plan, the Border Campaign (IRA) and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Although military action can disrupt a terrorist group's operations temporarily, it sometimes doesn't end the threat completely.[21]

Thus repression by the military in itself (particularly if it is not accompanied by other measures) usually leads to short term victories, but tend to be unsuccessful in the long run (e.g. the French's doctrine described in Roger Trinquier's book Modern War[22] used in Indochina and Algeria). However, new methods (see the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual[23]) such as those taken in Iraq have yet to be seen as beneficial or ineffectual.


Police, fire, and emergency medical response organizations have obvious roles. Local firefighters and emergency medical personnel (often called "first responders") have plans for mitigating the effects of terrorist attacks, although police may deal with threats of such attacks.


Whatever the target of terrorists, there are multiple ways of hardening the targets to prevent the terrorists from hitting their mark, or reducing the damage of attacks. One method is to place Hostile vehicle mitigation to enforce protective standoff distance outside tall or politically sensitive buildings to prevent car and truck bombing. Another way to reduce the impact of attacks is to design buildings for rapid evacuation.[24]

Aircraft cockpits are kept locked during flights, and have reinforced doors, which only the pilots in the cabin are capable of opening. UK railway stations removed their rubbish bins in response to the Provisional IRA threat, as convenient locations for depositing bombs.

Scottish stations removed theirs after the 7 July 2005 London Bombings as a precautionary measure. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority purchased bomb-resistant barriers after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - Iron Dome Intercepts Rockets from the Gaza Strip
Iron Dome air defense system. It intercepts artillery rockets fired by terrorist onto Israeli cities and towns.

As Israel is suffering from constant shelling of its cities, towns and settlements by artillery rockets from the Gaza Strip (mainly by Hamas, but also by other Palestinian factions) and Lebanon (mainly by Hezbollah), Israel developed several defensive measures against artillery, rockets and missiles. These include building a bomb shelter in every building and school, but also deploying active protection systems like the Arrow ABM, Iron Dome and David's Sling batteries which intercept the incoming threat in the air. Iron Dome has successfully intercepted hundreds of Qassam rockets and Grad rockets fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

A more sophisticated target-hardening approach must consider industrial and other critical industrial infrastructure that could be attacked. Terrorists need not import chemical weapons if they can cause a major industrial accident such as the Bhopal disaster or the Halifax Explosion. Industrial chemicals in manufacturing, shipping, and storage need greater protection, and some efforts are in progress.[25] To put this risk into perspective, the first major lethal chemical attack in WWI used 160 tons of chlorine. Industrial shipments of chlorine, widely used in water purification and the chemical industry, travel in 90 or 55 ton tank cars.

To give one more example, the North American electrical grid has already demonstrated, in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, its vulnerability to natural disasters coupled with inadequate, possibly insecure, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) networks. Part of the vulnerability is due to deregulation leading to much more interconnection in a grid designed for only occasional power-selling between utilities. A small number of terrorists, attacking key power facilities when one or more engineers have infiltrated the power control centers, could wreak havoc.

Equipping likely targets with containers (i.e., bags) of pig lard has been utilized to discourage attacks by suicide bombers. The technique was apparently used on a limited scale by British authorities in the 1940s.[26] The approach stems from the idea that Muslims perpetrating the attack would not want to be "soiled" by the lard in the moment prior to dying. The idea has been suggested more recently as a deterrent to suicide bombings in Israel.[27] However, the actual effectiveness of this tactic is probably limited as it is possible that a sympathetic Islamic scholar could issue a fatwa proclaiming that a suicide bomber would not be polluted by the swine products.

Command and control

In North America and other continents, for a threatened or completed terrorist attack, the Incident Command System (ICS) is apt to be invoked to control the various services that may need to be involved in the response. ICS has varied levels of escalation, such as might be needed for multiple incidents in a given area (e.g., the 2005 bombings in London or the 2004 Madrid train bombings, or all the way to a National Response Plan invocation if national-level resources are needed. National response, for example, might be needed for a nuclear, biological, radiological, or large chemical attack.

Damage mitigation

Fire departments, perhaps supplemented by public works agencies, utility providers (e.g., gas, water, electricity), and heavy construction contractors, are most apt to deal with the physical consequences of an attack.

Local security

Again under an incident command model, local police can isolate the incident area, reducing confusion, and specialized police units can conduct tactical operations against terrorists, often using specialized counter-terrorist tactical units. Bringing in such units will normally involve civil or military authority beyond the local level.

Medical services

Emergency medical services will triage, treat, and transport the more seriously affected victims to hospitals, which will also need to have mass casualty and triage plans in place.

Public health agencies, from local to national level, may be designated to deal with identification, and sometimes mitigation, of possible biological attacks, and sometimes chemical or radiologic contamination.

Tactical units

UTK PGK broke the door
Royal Malaysia Police Pasukan Gerakan Khas officers

Today, many countries have special units designated to handle terrorist threats. Besides various security agencies, there are elite tactical units, also known as special mission units, whose role is to directly engage terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks. Such units perform both in preventive actions, hostage rescue and responding to on-going attacks. Countries of all sizes can have highly trained counter-terrorist teams. Tactics, techniques and procedures for manhunting are under constant development.

Most of these measures deal with terrorist attacks that affect an area, or threaten to do so. It is far harder to deal with assassination, or even reprisals on individuals, due to the short (if any) warning time and the quick exfiltration of the assassins.[28]

These units are specially trained in tactics and are very well equipped for CQB with emphasis on stealth and performing the mission with minimal casualties. The units include take-over force (assault teams), snipers, EOD experts, dog handlers and intelligence officers. See Counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism organizations for national command, intelligence, and incident mitigation.

The majority of counter-terrorism operations at the tactical level, are conducted by state, federal and national law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies. In some countries, the military may be called in as a last resort. Obviously, for countries whose military are legally permitted to conduct police operations, this is a non-issue, and such counter-terrorism operations are conducted by their military.

See counter-intelligence for command, intelligence and warning, and incident mitigation aspects of counter-terror.

Examples of actions

Some counterterrorist actions of the 20th and 21st century are listed below. See list of hostage crises for a more extended list, including hostage-taking that did not end violently.

Representative hostage rescue operations
Incident Main locale Hostage nationality Kidnappers
Counter-terrorist force Results
1972 Sabena Flight 571 Tel Aviv-Lod International Airport, Israel Mixed Black September Sayeret Matkal 1 passenger dead, 2 hijackers killed. 2 passengers and 1 commando injured. 2 kidnappers captured. All other 96 passengers rescued.
1972 Munich massacre Munich Olympics, Germany Israeli Black September German police All hostages murdered, 5 kidnappers killed. 3 kidnappers captured and released.
1975 AIA Hostage Incident AIA building, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Mixed. US and Swedish Japanese Red Army Special Actions Unit All hostages rescued, all kidnappers flown to Libya.
1976 Entebbe raid Entebbe, Uganda Israelis and Jews. Non-Jewish hostages were released shortly after capture. PFLP Sayeret Matkal, Sayeret Tzanhanim, Sayeret Golani All 6 hijackers, 45 Ugandan troops, 3 hostages and 1 Israeli soldier dead. 100 hostages rescued
1977 Hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181 Spanish airspace and Mogadishu, Somalia Mixed PFLP GSG 9, Special Air Service consultants 1 hostage killed prior to the raid, 3 hijackers dead, 1 captured. 90 hostages rescued.
1980 Casa Circondariale di Trani Prison riot Trani, Italy Italian Red Brigades Gruppo di intervento speciale (GIS) 18 policemen rescued, all terrorists captured.
1980 Iranian Embassy Siege London, UK Mostly Iranian but some British Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan Special Air Service 1 hostage, 5 kidnappers dead, 1 captured. 24 hostages rescued. 1 SAS operative received minor burns.
1981 Hijacking of "Woyla" Garuda Indonesia Don Muang International Airport, Thailand Indonesian Jihad Command Kopassus, RTAF mixed forces 1 hijacker killed himself, 4 hijackers and 1 Kopassus operative dead, 1 pilot wounded, all hostages rescued.
1982 Liberation of General James L. Dozier Padua, Italy American Red Brigades Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza (NOCS) Hostage saved, capture of the entire terrorist cell.
1983 Turkish embassy attack Lisbon, Portugal Turkish Armenian Revolutionary Army GOE 5 hijackers, 1 hostage and 1 policeman dead, 1 hostage and 1 policeman wounded.
1985 Capture of Achille Lauro hijackers International airspace and Italy Mixed PLO US military, Italian special forces, Gruppo di intervento speciale turned over to Italy 1 dead in hijacking, 4 hijackers convicted in Italy
1986 Pudu Prison siege Pudu Prison, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Two doctors Prisoners Special Actions Unit 6 kidnappers captured, 2 hostages rescued
1993 Operation Ashwamedh Amritsar, India 141 passengers Islamic terrorist (Mohammed Yousuf Shah) NSG commandos 3 hijackers killed, all hostages rescued
1994 Air France Flight 8969 Marseille, France Mixed GIA GIGN 4 hijackers killed, 3 hostages killed prior to the raid, 229 hostages rescued
1996 Japanese embassy hostage crisis Lima, Peru Japanese and guests (800+) Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement Peruvian military & police mixed forces 1 hostage, 2 rescuers, all 14 kidnappers dead.
2000 Sauk Arms Heist Perak, Malaysia Malaysian (2 policemen, 1 soldier and 1 civilian) Al-Ma'unah Grup Gerak Khas and 20 Pasukan Gerakan Khas, mixed forces 2 hostages dead, 2 rescuers dead, 1 kidnapper dead and the other 28 kidnappers captured.
2001-2005 Pankisi Gorge crisis Pankisi Gorge, Kakheti, Georgia Georgians mixed, mostly Arab and Chechen combatants 2400 troops and 1000 policemen Repressing the threats of terrorism in the gorge.
2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis Moscow Mixed, mostly Russian (900+) Chechen Russian Spetsnaz 129–204 hostages dead, all 39 kidnappers dead. 600–700 hostages freed.
2004 Beslan school hostage crisis Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania, (an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation). Russian Chechen Mixed Russian 334 hostages dead and hundreds wounded. 10–21 rescuers dead. 31 kidnappers killed, 1 captured.
2007 Lal Masjid siege Islamabad, Pakistan Pakistani students Lal Masjid students and militants Pakistani Army and Rangers SSG commandos 61 militants killed, 50 militants captured, 23 students killed, 11 SSG killed,1 Ranger killed,33 SSG wounded,8 soldiers wounded,3 Rangers wounded, 14 civilians killed
2007 Kirkuk Hostage Rescue Kirkuk, Iraq Turkman child Islamic State of Iraq Al Qaeda PUK's Kurdistan Regional Government's CTG Counter Terrorism Group 5 kidnappers arrested, 1 hostage rescued
2008 Operation Jaque Colombia Mixed Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia 15 hostages released. 2 kidnappers captured
2008 Operations Dawn Gulf of Aden, Somalia Mixed Somalian piracy and militants PASKAL and international mixed forces Negotiation finished. 80 hostages released. RMN including PASKAL navy commandos with international mixed forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden during this festive period.[29][30][31]
2008 2008 Mumbai attacks Multiple locations in Mumbai city Indian Nationals, Foreign tourists Ajmal Qasab and other Pakistani nationals affiliated to Laskar-e-taiba 300 NSG commandos, 36–100 Marine commandos and 400 army Para Commandos 141 Indian civilians, 30 foreigners, 15 policemen and two NSG commandos were killed.

9 attackers killed,1 attacker captured and 293 injured

2009 2009 Lahore Attacks Multiple locations in Lahore city Pakistan Lashkar-e-Taiba Police Commandos, Army Rangers Battalion March 3, The Sri Lankan cricket team attack – 6 members of the Sri Lankan cricket team were injured, 6 Pakistani policemen and 2 civilians killed.

March 30, the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore attack – 8 gunmen, 8 police personnel and 2 civilians killed, 95 people injured, 4 gunmen captured..
Plaza Cinema Chowk attack – 16 policemen, an army officer and unknown number of civilians killed. As many as 251 people injured.

2011 Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden Gulf of Aden, Somalia Koreans, Myanmar, Indonesian Somalian piracy and militants Republic of Korea Navy Special Warfare Flotilla(UDT/SEAL) 4+ killed or missing, 8 killed, 5 captured, All hostages rescued.
2012 Lopota Gorge hostage crisis Lopota Gorge, Georgia Georgians ethnic Chechen, Russian and Georgian militants Special Operations Center, SOD, KUD and army special forces 2 KUD members and one special forces corpsman killed, 5 policemen wounded, 11 kidnappers killed, 5 wounded and 1 captured. All hostages rescued.
2013 2013 Lahad Datu standoff Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia Malaysians Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (Jamalul Kiram III's faction) Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and joint counter-terrorism forces as well as Philippine Armed Forces. 8 policemen including 2 PGK commandos and one soldier killed, 12 others wounded, 56 militants killed, 3 wounded and 149 captured. All hostages rescued. 6 civilians killed and one wounded.
2017 2017 Isani flat siege Isani district, Tbilisi, Georgia Georgians Chechen militants Police special forces 3 muslim militants killed, including Akhmed Chatayev. One special forces officer killed during skirmishes.

Designing Anti-terrorism systems

Transparent garbage bins at Central station
Transparent garbage bin installed at Central station in Sydney so police can check its contents

The scope for Anti-terrorism systems is very large in physical terms (long borders, vast areas, high traffic volumes in busy cities, etc.) as well as in other dimensions, such as type and degree of terrorism threat, political and diplomatic ramifications, and legal issues. In this environment, the development of a persistent Anti-terrorism protection system is a daunting task. Such a system should bring together diverse state-of-the-art technologies to enable persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and enable potential actions. Designing such a system-of-systems comprises a major technological project.

A particular design problem for this system is that it will face many uncertainties in the future. The threat of terrorism may increase, decrease or remain the same, the type of terrorism and location are difficult to predict, and there are technological uncertainties. Yet we want to design a terrorism system conceived and designed today in order to prevent acts of terrorism for a decade or more. A potential solution is to incorporate flexibility into system design for the reason that the flexibility embedded can be exercised in future as uncertainty unfolds and updated information arrives. And the design and valuation of a protection system should not be based on a single scenario, but an array of scenarios. Flexibility can be incorporated in the design of the terrorism system in the form of options that can be exercised in the future when new information is available. Using these 'real options' will create a flexible Anti-terrorism system that is able to cope with new requirements that may arise.[32]

Law enforcement/Police

While some countries with longstanding terrorism problems, such as Israel, have law enforcement agencies primarily designed to prevent and respond to terror attacks,[33] in other nations, counter-terrorism is a relatively more recent objective of civilian police and law enforcement agencies.[34][35]

While some civil-libertarians and criminal justice scholars have called-out efforts of law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism as futile and expensive[36] or as threats to civil liberties,[36] other scholars have begun describing and analyzing the most important dimensions of the policing of terrorism as an important dimension of counterterrorism, especially in the post-9/11 era, and have argued how police institutions view terrorism as a matter of crime control.[34] Such analyses bring out the civilian police role in counterterrorism next to the military model of a 'war on terror'.[37]

Counter-Terrorism and American Law Enforcement

Pursuant to passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies began to systemically reorganize.[38][39] Two primary federal agencies (the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)) house most of the federal agencies that are prepared to combat domestic and international terrorist attacks. These include the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard and the FBI.

Following suit from federal changes pursuant to 9/11, however, most state and local law enforcement agencies began to include a commitment to "fighting terrorism" in their mission statements.[40][41] Local agencies began to establish more patterned lines of communication with federal agencies. Some scholars have doubted the ability of local police to help in the war on terror and suggest their limited manpower is still best utilized by engaging community and targeting street crimes.[42]

While counter-terror measures (most notably heightened airport security, immigrant profiling[43] and border patrol) have been adapted during the last decade, to enhance counter-terror in law enforcement, there have been remarkable limitations to assessing the actual utility/effectiveness of law enforcement practices that are ostensibly preventative.[44] Thus, while sweeping changes in counter-terrorism rhetoric redefined most American post 9/11 law enforcement agencies in theory, it is hard to assess how well such hyperbole has translated into practice.

In intelligence-led policing(ILP) efforts, the most quantitatively amenable starting point for measuring the effectiveness of any policing strategy (i.e.: Neighborhood Watch, Gun Abatement, Foot Patrols, etc.) is usually to assess total financial costs against clearance rates or arrest rates. Since terrorism is such a rare event phenomena,[45] measuring arrests or clearance rates would be a non-generalizable and ineffective way to test enforcement policy effectiveness. Another methodological problem in assessing counter-terrorism efforts in law enforcement hinges on finding operational measures for key concepts in the study of homeland security. Both terrorism and homeland security are relatively new concepts for criminologists, and academicians have yet to agree on the matter of how to properly define these ideas in a way that is accessible.

Véhicule intervention GIGN
Assault car of the French GIGN.

International Counter-Terrorism Agencies

SEK-Einsatz vom Schlauchboot (10584688934)
SEK members of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) during an exercise

+ indicates military organization allowed to operate domestically.

NSG Commandos Republic day 2015.
NSG Commandos of India


ARW 30th Anniversary - 4478058309
Irish Army Ranger Wing operators during counter-terrorism training exercise.

Given the nature of operational counter-terrorism tasks national military organizations do not generally have dedicated units whose sole responsibility is the prosecution of these tasks. Instead the counter-terrorism function is an element of the role, allowing flexibility in their employment, with operations being undertaken in the domestic or international context.

In some cases the legal framework within which they operate prohibits military units conducting operations in the domestic arena; United States Department of Defense policy, based on the Posse Comitatus Act, forbids domestic counter-terrorism operations by the U.S. military. Units allocated some operational counter-terrorism task are frequently Special Forces or similar assets.

In cases where military organisations do operate in the domestic context some form of formal handover from the law enforcement community is regularly required, to ensure adherence to the legislative framework and limitations. such as the Iranian Embassy Siege, the British police formally turned responsibility over to the Special Air Service when the situation went beyond police capabilities.

See also


  1. ^ "Introduction to Foreign Internal Defense" (PDF). Curtis E. Lemay Center for Doctrine Development and Education.
  2. ^ Aniceto Masferrer, Clive Walker (2013). Counter-Terrorism, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: Crossing Legal Boundaries in Defence of the State. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 294. ISBN 9781781954478.
  3. ^ Wisnicki, Adrian (2013). Conspiracy, Revolution, and Terrorism from Victorian Fiction to the Modern Novel. Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory. Routledge. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-135-91526-1. With the collapse of Parnell's political career in 1891 and the general, if temporary, demoralization of the Irish cause, the Special Branch's interests shifted to other revolutionary and anarchist groups, and the word Irish dropped out of the name.
  4. ^ Tim Newburn, Peter Neyroud (2013). Dictionary of Policing. Routledge. p. 262. ISBN 9781134011551.
  5. ^ Shaffer, Ryan (2015). "Counter-Terrorism Intelligence, Policy and Theory Since 9/11". Terrorism and Political Violence. 27 (2): 368–375. doi:10.1080/09546553.2015.1006097. Volume 27, Issue 2, 2015.
  6. ^ "Preventive Counter-Terrorism Measures and Non-Discrimination in the European Union: The Need for Systematic Evaluation". The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague (ICCT). 2 July 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Which Countries' Terrorist Attacks Are Ignored By The U.S. Media?". FiveThirtyEight. 2016.
  8. ^ "Trade and Terror: The Impact of Terrorism on Developing Countries". Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 2017.
  9. ^ Sexton, Renard; Wellhausen, Rachel L.; Findley, Michael G. (2019). "How Government Reactions to Violence Worsen Social Welfare: Evidence from Peru". American Journal of Political Science. 0. doi:10.1111/ajps.12415. ISSN 1540-5907.
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Further reading

External links

Australian Intelligence Community

The Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) and the National Intelligence Community (NIC) or National Security Community of the Australian Government are the collectives of statutory intelligence agencies, policy departments, and other government agencies concerned with protecting and advancing the national security and national interests of the Commonwealth of Australia. The intelligence and security agencies of the Australian Government have evolved since the Second World War and the Cold War and saw transformation and expansion during the Global War on Terrorism in response to current international and domestic security issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, cybersecurity, transnational crime, counter-proliferation, support to military operations, and Pacific regional instability.The National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC) is a Cabinet committee and the peak Australian Government decision-making body for national security, intelligence, foreign policy, and defence matters. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and is composed of the Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Treasurer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Defence, and Minister for Home Affairs.

The Australian Government 2008 National Security Strategy defined the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) as the six core intelligence agencies (Office of National Assessments (ONA), Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO)) and the National Intelligence Community (NIC) as policy departments and other government agencies such as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Federal Police. The Office of National Assessments further classifies the six agencies of the Australian Intelligence Community as collection (ASIO, ASIS, ASD, AGO) or assessment agencies (ONA, DIO). The Office of National Assessments itself plays a unique all-source intelligence assessment and intergovernmental co-ordination role.As a middle power and G20 economy in the international community and a regional power in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific, Australia has played a major role in international security. The Australian Government is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence community, the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty, the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and the Commonwealth of Nations. The foreign policy of Australia is guided by its commitment to multilateralism and the United Nations and regionalism with the Pacific Islands Forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations alongside strong bilateral relations particularly in Oceania, Southeast Asia, the alliance with the United States, and Australia–China relations.

The Australian Defence Force has also deployed around the world for United Nations peacekeeping, regional peacekeeping operations including with the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands and the International Force for East Timor, humanitarian relief, counterterrorism and special operations, border security in Operation Resolute, airborne surveillance operations and maritime monitoring operations in the South China Sea and South West Pacific, counterinsurgency and security assistance such as with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with Operation Slipper and Operation Highroad, and the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with Operation Okra.

Domestically, the rise of violent extremism and threats of both Islamic and right-wing terrorism are key concerns of the Australian Government. Crime in Australia, including cybercrime and transnational crime such as human trafficking, arms trafficking, and the illegal drug trade, are ongoing risks to the security and safety of Australia.

Coordinator for Counterterrorism

The Coordinator for Counterterrorism heads the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, which coordinates U.S. government efforts to fight terrorism. As the head of the counterterrorism bureau, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism has the rank of both Ambassador-at-Large and Assistant Secretary.The current Coordinator for Counterterrorism is Nathan Sales.

Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit

The Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) was set up in 2010 by ACPO (and run by the Metropolitan Police) to remove unlawful terrorist material content from the Internet, with a specific focus on UK based material. CTIRU works with internet platforms to identify content which breaches their terms of service and requests that they remove the content on a voluntary basis. CTIRU also compile a list of URLs for material hosted outside the UK which are blocked on networks of the public estate.

To date (as of December 2017), CTIRU is linked to the removal of 300,000 pieces of "illegal terrorist material" from the internet.

Counter Terrorism Command

Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) or SO15 is a Specialist Operations branch within London's Metropolitan Police Service. Counter Terrorism Command was established as a result of the merging of the Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13), and Special Branch (SO12) in October 2006, bringing together intelligence, operations and investigative functions to form a single command. CTC has over 1,500 Police Officers and staff, and a number of investigators based overseas.

Commander Clarke Jarrett is the head of Counter Terrorism Command and reports to the Senior National Co-ordinator, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu.Counter Terrorism Command is also the host of the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network headquarters.

Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Bureau

Counter Terrorism and Intelligence Bureau (more commonly known as CTIB) is an elite covert intelligence unit of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, trained by DGFI, CIA and other special forces around the world. The unit is tasked with combatting terrorism, gathering information about any internal or external threat to Bangladesh and counter-attack. Since the formation of CTIB in 2006, terrorist activities have decreased in Bangladesh.

FBI Counterterrorism Division

The Counterterrorism Division (CTD) is a division of the National Security Branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. CTD terrorist threats inside the United States, provides information on terrorists outside the country, and tracks known terrorists worldwide. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, CTD's funding and manpower have significantly increased.

The Division employs counterterrorism field operations organized into squads, the number of which varies according to the amount and diversity of activity in the local field office's jurisdiction. Larger field offices, such as Los Angeles, maintain counterterrorism squads for each major terrorist group, as well as for domestic terrorism and terrorist financing, while smaller field offices combined such responsibilities across two to three squads.

Intelligence Center for Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime

The Intelligence Center for Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO) is the Spanish domestic intelligence agency responsible for the prevention of domestic terrorism, organized crime and other violent radical organizations by managing and analyzing all internal information of the country. It was formed in October 2014.

International Institute for Counter-Terrorism

The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) is a non-profit organization located at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), in Herzliya, Israel. The ICT was founded in 1996 and describes itself as "the leading academic institute for counter-terrorism in the world, facilitating international cooperation in the global struggle against terrorism." The ICT provides "expertise in terrorism, counter-terrorism, homeland security, threat vulnerability, risk assessment, intelligence analysis, national security and defense policy." The organisation states that "all of its efforts and resources are dedicated to approaching the issue of terrorism globally – that is, as a strategic problem that faces not only Israel but other countries as well."

Iraqi Special Operations Forces

Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) (Arabic: قوات العمليات الخاصة العراقية‎), commonly known as the Golden Division, are Iraqi special forces unit created by coalition forces after the 2003 invasion. The forces, directed by the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, consist of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Command, which has three brigades subordinate to it. The Counter Terrorism Service (Jihaz Mukafahat al-Irhab, originally translated as Counter Terrorism Bureau) is funded by the Iraq Ministry of Defence.

Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition

The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) (Arabic: التحالف الإسلامي العسكري لمحاربة الإرهاب‎), is an intergovernmental counter-terrorist alliance of countries in the Muslim world, united around military intervention against ISIL and other counter-terrorist activities. Its creation was first announced by Saudi Arabian defence minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, on 15 December 2015. The alliance was to have a joint operations center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.When the coalition was announced there were 34 members. Additional countries joined and the number of members reached 41 when Oman joined in December 2016. On 6 January 2017, the Pakistani former chief of Army Staff, General (retd.) Raheel Sharif was named the IMCTC's first commander-in-chief. Most of its participants are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

National Counter-Terrorism Action Group

The National Counter-Terrorism Action Group (NACTAG) (Filipino: Pambansang Lupon ng Pagsasagawa Laban sa Terorismo) (PLPLT) was formed on November 27, 2007, with its existence announced to the public on November 29, 2007. It is an counter-terrorism body under the Anti-Terrorism Council. NACTAG is under the direct command of the National Security Advisor.

National Counter Terrorism Policing Network

The National Counter Terrorism Policing Network (NCTPN) (also known as the Police Counter-Terrorism Network) is the national collaboration of police forces in the United Kingdom working to prevent, deter and investigate terrorism in the United Kingdom. The Network is governed by the National Police Collaboration Agreement Relating to Counter Terrorism Activities Made Under Section 22A of the Police Act 1996. The Network is accountable to the United Kingdom Government and the National Police Chiefs' Council Counter Terrorism Coordination Committee which is chaired by the Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations (ACSO) who also acts as the National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing. The Network is also functionally coordinated by the Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism who is usually a Metropolitan Police Service Deputy Assistant Commissioner co-located within the Counter Terrorism Command.The Network stretches across the United Kingdom and sees specialist officers and staff working with the Home Office, MI5 and other intelligence, security and criminal justice agencies around the world. It is made up of dedicated Regional Counter Terrorism Units and national police units and is responsible for the delivery of the policing contribution to the CONTEST strategy.The Australian Federal Police's Joint Counter Terrorism Teams, Canada's Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, and the United States' Joint Terrorism Task Force model can be seen as analogous to the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network.

National Counter Terrorism Security Office

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) is a police unit. It is funded by, and reports to, the Home Office, which advises the British government on its counter-terrorism strategy.

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office supports the protection of the United Kingdom's crowded spaces, hazardous and potentially vulnerable or at risk sites, as well as offering advice on a range of threats and dangerous substances. They work alongside the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure.

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office is also responsible for running National Counter Terrorism Security Advisers (CTSA's) network. National Counter Terrorism Security Advisers are embedded in police forces across the UK and provide direct support and guidance to help build the resilience (c.f. also psychological resilience) and security of the United Kingdom from terrorist attacks.

National Counterterrorism Center

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is a United States government organization responsible for national and international counterterrorism efforts. It is based in Liberty Crossing, a modern complex near Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia. NCTC advises the United States on terrorism.

Part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the group brings together specialists from other federal agencies, including the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Defense.In 2012, the United States Attorney General Eric Holder granted the agency the authority to collect, store, and analyze extensive data collections on U.S. citizens compiled from governmental and non-governmental sources for suspicious behavior through pattern analysis and to share the databases with foreign states. The effort has drawn controversy for its pre-crime effort, which has been likened to the Information Awareness Office and its proposed mass surveillance.

National Investigation Agency

National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India. It acts as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency. The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states. The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India on 31 December 2008.NIA was created after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as need for a central agency to combat terrorism was realised. The conviction rate of this anti-terrorism agency is currently 95 per cent as it has managed to convict 167 accused in the 185 cases registered by it since its inception.

The founding Director-General of NIA was Radha Vinod Raju, and he served till 31 January 2010. He was succeeded by Sharad Chandra Sinha till March 2013. In July 2013, Sharad Kumar was appointed as the Chief of National Investigation Agency. In 2017, Y.C.Modi was named as Chief of NIA in September.

Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism

The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) is an executive directorate of the UK government Home Office, created in 2007, responsible for leading the work on counter-terrorism in the UK, working closely with the police and security services. The office reports to the Home Secretary and Minister of State for Security and Counter-Terrorism (currently Ben Wallace). Its current Director General is Tom Hurd, who is described as the senior government official responsible for counter terrorist and organised crime strategy.

Richard A. Clarke

Richard Alan Clarke (born October 27, 1950) is the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the United States.

Clarke worked for the State Department during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to chair the Counter-terrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National Security Council. President Bill Clinton retained Clarke and in 1998 promoted him to be the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council. Under President George W. Bush, Clarke initially continued in the same position, but no longer had cabinet-level access. He later was appointed as the Special Advisor to the President on cybersecurity. Clarke left the Bush administration in 2003.

Clarke came to widespread public attention for his counter-terrorism role in March 2004: he published a memoir about his service in government, Against All Enemies; appeared on the 60 Minutes television news magazine; and testified before the 9/11 Commission. In all three cases, Clarke sharply criticized the Bush administration's attitude toward counter-terrorism before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and its decision afterward to wage war and invade Iraq. Clarke was criticized by some supporters of the Bush decisions.

Specialist Operations

The Specialist Operations directorate is a unit of the Metropolitan Police Service responsible for providing specialist policing capabilities including national security and counter-terrorism operations. The Specialist Operations Directorate is led by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu.

Terrorism and counter-terrorism in Kazakhstan

The threat of terrorism in Kazakhstan plays an increasingly important role in relations with the United States which in 2006 were at an all-time high. Kazakhstan has taken Uzbekistan's place as the favored partner in Central Asia for both Russia and the United States.

Kazakhstan's counter-terrorism efforts resulted in country's 94th ranking among 130 countries in the 2016 Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute of Economics and Peace. The higher the position on the ranking is, the bigger the impact of terrorism in the country. Kazakhstan's 94th place puts it in a group of countries with the lowest impact of terrorism.

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