More than 200 emergency services and security officers have held a large-scale counterterrorism drill at Hong Kong International Airport to strengthen the city’s response to bomb attacks and incursions from hostage-taking knifemen.
Code-named “Ironwill”, officers from police and fire services were deployed early on Friday for the practice scenario, which was modelled on a 2016 terrorist attack in Brussels.
The exercise started shortly after midnight with a participant acting as a member of the public spotting an unattended bag in the departure hall of the airport in Chek Lap Kok, alerting the Aviation Security Company and police to a suspected explosive device.
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Soon after, five armed “terrorists” launched a knife attack in the hall on passers-by, taking several hostages and threatening to detonate a bomb.
Police’s airport security unit, and later the elite Special Duties Unit, known as the Flying Tigers, appeared on the scene, with the force’s negotiation cadre also deployed.
As part of the mock operation, “Flying Tigers” officers neutralised the group after a one-hour stand-off to free all the hostages without injury, while ambulance crews from the Fire Services Department tended to other casualties.
The suspected explosive devices were later diffused by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau.
A source said the exercise took reference from the Brussels Airport attack in March 2016 when two suicide bombers carried large suitcases containing explosives into the departure hall before triggering two explosions. A third bomb was found in a search of the airport and later destroyed.
Peter Leung Wai-ki, acting senior superintendent of the Inter-departmental Counter Terrorism Unit (ICTU), said one of the objectives of the drill was to remind the public how to respond to suspicious objects in transport hubs.
The department also reissued advice on what to do in case of a terrorist attack: run, hide and report.
The city’s terrorist threat level remained “moderate,” Leung added.
A third of the departure hall was shut down during the drill. It was organised by the police operations wing and the ICTU, which is composed of officers from six disciplined services and headed by the Security Bureau.