Gates, Guns and Guards: The False Sense of Security

Excerpted from:
Al-Shabab hits Hotel Ambassador in Somalia’s Mogadishu
June 2, 2016
ALJAZEERA

“They want to send a message that although they might have lost control of the city, they can still carry out such attacks with audacity.”

Based on initial reporting, it appears Al-Shabaab used a “double tap” operation to attack the Ambassador Hotel in downtown Mogadishu on Wednesday. A suicide bomber, using a VBIED, first breached the hotel’s security perimeter. Then a group of three armed attackers entered the compound and began moving from floor to floor seeking victims. As of this morning the death toll had risen to 25 killed and at least twice that many injured. Some local media accounts report that Somali security forces had still not taken control of the entire hotel.

This attack once again drives home the point that gates, guns and guards rarely stop a determined adversary. Security at the Ambassador Hotel was better than many western hotels, given that this location had been attacked in the past, and was a popular meeting venue for Somali politicians. Despite this, the terrorist planners devised an attack scenario that rendered moot the hotel’s defenses. The post-blast investigation will (once again) show that this was a well-planned and coordinated event…with the terror operatives having engaged in numerous surveillance and pre-attack visits to the hotel ahead of the operation – all of which could have been observed by an alert security staff and hotel personnel. Too often employees at a site like this become lulled into a false sense of security by high walls and guards placed around their perimeter. This false sense of security is what allows groups like Al-Shabaab to operate in plain site with little fear of detection.