As US officials proclaim an alleged European terror plot still active, New York City police conducted a drill Thursday that simulated a Mumbai-style attack on civilians on a crowded street in Manhattan's financial district.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly addressed the media before the drill, which began with two large explosions. "This is what we do," he explained. "We think the unthinkable." The drill simulated multiple bombs and shooters, including a bomb under a vehicle, and police responded with helicopters, dogs, automatic weapons and an armored car.
Earlier Thursday, the State Department's counterterror chief told reports in London that the travel alert issued last week that advised travelers in Europe to be careful was still in effect. "We don't view the conditions as warranting us rescinding the alert," said Daniel Benjamin. The alert was issued Oct. 3, when intelligence led authorities to believe a Mumbai-style assault on so-called "soft" civilian targets might be imminent in Europe.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai assault that claimed 175 lives, the NYPD revised its tactics to deal with a terrorist commando assault. During Thursday's drill in the Bronx, heavily armed Emergency Service Unit officers were backed by officers from the Organized Crime Control Bureau trained to respond to such an attack. The OCCB officers are intended to beef up the NYPD response and prevent multiple simultaneous attacks from overwhelming the responding force.
The drill simulated an attack in lower Manhattan's financial district, near Wall Street and Ground Zero, on a mock block that contained a department store, a hotel and a federal regulatory agency. European authorities view these as the kind of "soft" and financial targets that might be attacked in a commando-style assault. Multiple civilians and officers were "shot" during the drill.
"We've got some info from one of the perps that the Empire State Building might be next," one police radio crackled during the drill.
As it did, helmeted cops with M4 rifles and M14 assault rifles began stalking the street hunting snipers and assailants.
"What we try to do is stress the system," Kelly explained, who said the exercise was the ninth since Mumbai. Footage of the drill will be featured on Friday's episode of "Brian Ross Investigates," which can be seen on ABC News Now or on the web.
The State Department issued its highly unusual travel advisory on Oct. 3, to "alert U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe. ... Current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks."
While the advisory does not name potential targets, it says "U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure." It recommends that U.S. citizens "take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings" and register their travel plans on the State Department's travel registration web site.
The alert was issued because of strong concerns that terrorist teams in Europe have selected their targets and are now ready to strike at airports and tourist attractions, according to multiple law enforcement and intelligence sources.
European and U.S. authorities first learned of the plot over the summer following the capture of Ahmed Siddiqui, a suspected German terrorist who had been training in Pakistan.