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Anti-terror unit: Strong arm of the law.

AAasecret team of commandos that exists in the shadows of the Dubai Police will soon be renamed the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), XPRESS has learnt.

Most people don't know that Dubai Police have an "extra special" Swat (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit.

And those who do are not even sure who its members are.

Dressed in black tactical BDUs (battle dress uniforms), the elite team's capabilities are the stuff fit for an action movie.

In real life, however, the team's core mission is to save lives.


The city's regular Swat unit is under the General Department of Protective Security and Emergency Unit of the Dubai Police. Swat was created in 1991 and has 282 officers.

Distinct from this regular Swat unit is a 40-member team of policemen who are highly-trained in anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism measures and unconventional urban warfare tactics.

The four-year-old team, which will soon be referred to as the ATU, is considered the crE me de la crE me of the Dubai Police.

It is composed of officers and men aged between 22 and 28, with ranks ranging from corporal to lieutenant. Most members graduated from the Dubai Police Academy. The Dubai Police General Department of Protective Security and Emergency holds this team in the highest esteem.

Members of this crack police commando team are the city's "go-to-guys" against any terror attack, a senior police official who is in charge of the team told XPRESS. Lt Col Abdullah Khalifa Al Merri, Head of the Protective Security Department, said: "The majority of the team officers are married and don't like to reveal their identity as some of them have never told their families about the nature of their job."

Tough selection

The team's members are carefully screened through a rigorous selection process. Al Merri said members are carefully hand-picked.

Aspirants must be physically fit, smart and be able to focus, and must be Emiratis between the age of 20 and 40, with a minimum height of 170cm and hold a baccalaureate degree at the very least. An initial selection process involves a battery of physical, mental and marksmanship tests.

Those selected to train for the elite team do not necessarily get guaranteed spots in the squad.

Candidates must attend a six- week preliminary training where they are made to prove their weapons-handling skills and show their ability to think on their feet especially in situations that require quick decision-making.

After the preliminary training, candidates who successfully pass the tests undergo intensive training in rifle/pistol marksmanship, urban sniper operations, tactical negotiations, hostage rescue and close quarter combat.

They are also trained in high-risk warrant service, VIP security and transportation of dangerous people in custody, among others.

"At all times, emphasis is placed on physical fitness so that officers are able to withstand the rigours of tactical operations," Al Merri said.

Once a candidate secures a spot in the elite team, he is required to maintain a high level of physical and mental fitness and weapons and tactical proficiency skills through constant training.

Officers and team members also need to pass extensive annual physical and operational testing processes in order to remain with the unit.

Team members are required to be on call and must be ready to deploy on short notice. The team must be able to respond quickly to a wide variety of situations, such as hostage rescue, terrorist attack, armed robberies, kidnapping and the like.

The crack team was instrumental in foiling drug trading at sea, Al Merri said. "With the kind of training and equipment the team has, we do expect to face and beat any terrorist attack," he said.

Keeping city safe

"Dubai is a safe city. It's part of the police strategy and one of the precautionary measures to have this [kind of] force. It is a preventive unit," said Al Merri. "We never faced any terrorist threats. Most calls are false alarms from mentally unstable people. In some cases, we get calls from people who said they want to commit suicide or engage in minor kidnapping cases."

Mission control

A Swat team trains in a variety of tactical skills that include but are not limited to abseiling, breaching, assault, rescue and arrest, tactical shooting and rappelling. Members train under the tutelage of instructors from the United States, South Africa, France, Switzerland, Germany and the UAE.

Physical fitness training includes body-building, self-defence, karate, boxing and tae-kwondo.

The unit's daily training also includes lectures on the use of various types of weapons. Emphasis is focused on marksmanship as it is crucial in carrying out missions as diverse as shoot-to-kill and shoot-to-disable.

Swat teams are equipped to engage in high-speed chase on land or at sea.

Basic strategy

A Swat raiding team starts its mission by gathering initial data. It surveys and photographs a target building, monitoring enemy movement while also considering clarity of vision and weather conditions. All these elements are crucial before a team decides on how to carry out its mission.

The team usually formulates three tactical and operational plans based on the mission's objective, ground situation and data gathered. Three groups -- breaching, assault, rescue and arrest -- are involved in a typical hostage-rescue mission. A Swat team leader takes instructions from an incident command and control centre.

After inserting the assault team into the target area, they get ready to breach and raid using short guns, demolition charge or breaking tools. An assault team is equipped with standard weapons -- usually an MP5 submachinegun, a back-up pistol, tear gas grenades and flash bangs. The assault team includes a first aid specialist as well as an explosives expert. The raid and attack strategy is aimed at two main objectives: hit-to-kill or hit-to-injure.

World class

The Dubai Police Swat team has achieved various merits at the international and domestic level.

A 10-man team took part in last year's World Swat Championships in Orlando, Florida, US. The competitions with participation by over 80 teams were centered on sting operations, raid, attack and target shooting.

The Dubai team consistently demonstrated excellent performance, achieving level 16 (the highest level) in four minutes and 32 seconds.

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 29, 2009
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