Soldiers flood Dublin to tackle multiple terrorist incidents - but it's just a drill
Swarms of soldiers flooded on to Dublin's streets yesterday to tackle multiple terrorist attacks. But to the relief of bemused onlookers, it was all just a drill.
More than 500 troops were deployed in the exercise, designed to test the reaction of the Defence Forces to multiple attacks at different locations.
The troops were called in at short notice at the request of garda authorities to help cope with the fallout from an initial terror strike - and intelligence that further terror strikes were planned at key installations.
It was a scenario based on real-life attacks in major European centres like Barcelona and Paris. The military response was spearheaded by the elite anti-terror unit, the Army Ranger Wing.
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, watched the main thrust of the exercise at a derelict site at Dublin Port.
He said increasing the strength of the Ranger Wing, as proposed in a Government white paper on defence, was a top priority, adding that plans were well advanced.
His deputy chief in charge of operations, Major General Kieran Brennan, said it was their biggest deployment so far in an exercise to ensure they were fit for purpose.
He said the Defence Forces gave back-up on a daily basis to the gardai through deployment of bomb-disposal teams and providing armed escorts for prisoners being moved from the jails to the courts.
The troops were drawn from stand-by units at two barracks in Dublin, McKee and Cathal Brugha, as well as the Defence Forces training centre at the Curragh, Dundalk, Athlone, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Finner, Co Donegal.
They were not notified about their tasks until 6am and were taken in convoy to a number of holding centres.
According to the exercise scenario, six terrorists had mounted a marauding knife attack at Pearse Street railway station on Tuesday night, resulting in eight people being killed and 20 injured. Gardai had shot and captured one terrorist.
As a result of questioning him and raids on addresses of suspects, officers found other terror cells were in place and planning attacks. Five were still at large in the scenario.
The Army Rangers were deployed to the former Odlum's site at Dublin Port, where a derelict building played the role of a block of apartments where terrorists had an explosives factory.
The Rangers moved in to take control of the block, conscious that some of the apartments could be booby trapped while others could be occupied by innocent people.