Learning from Terrorist Tactics: Becoming Anonymous



In a recent article in Jihad Watch Robert Spencer talks about how the 24 year old jihadist who committed the Tunisian Resort Massacre last week where 39 people were killed and at least 39 others were wounded, managed, before the attack, to go completely un-noticed by the public. As Spencer points out, this is clearly due to the instruction and training these men are getting from sources such as the ISIS handbook “How to Survive in the West.”

In studying this attack. Two things stuck out to me.

1. Anonymity of Shooter

The shooter that day dressed like everybody else at a beach resort. Shorts and a T-Shirt. It is not logical to think a person could conceal an AK-47 rifle on a crowded beach of sunbathers, does it? I mean clothing is sparse to say the least on a beach, and if you showed up in say, a long black trenchcoat, you might look somewhat suspicious, right?  So where can you hide an assault rifle on a beach? The shooter put the weapon in something everybody else had that day most likely: A Sun Umbrella; which when you consider the options for concealment, barring a large cooler or maybe a large bag, is the best choice to not draw attention. (Note: For those of you that don’t know, or are not familiar with the AK weapon system, some models of AK-47’s have either underfolding or side folding stocks, which when folded, make the gun very compact, only about 26 or 27 inches long, so this is most likely how the gun was concealed in the umbrella.)

Police on the scene also said the shooter reloaded “at least twice” before he was killed, which means he would have to had at least (3) 30 rd AK Magazines on him. These would have had to been carried in a separate bag of some sort, or possibly they could have been carried in the pockets of his shorts. An interesting note on the shorts, witnesses said he was wearing DARK colored shorts. Dark colored clothing does not “print” as obviously as light colored clothing, so this is why he most likely could have concealed 3 AK magazines in the pockets without arousing suspicion.

2.  Deception

Although I doubt it was in the shooters mind at the time, his tactics were closely modeled after Sun Tzu’s instruction in the Art of War concerning Deception:

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Elaborating on this topic, Jeremiah Bourque, a Sun Tsu blogger and Historian, writes:

“Unable to simply show the enemy nothing, the strategist instead shows his opponent something that the opponent wishes to see and wishes to believe. Having shown something, but having shown this something in a way that creates a false impression, the enemy is seduced into deceiving himself.”

So, in essence, that day, the shooter showed everybody on that beach what they expected to see: a man dressed like everybody else, shorts and t-shirt, carrying what most everybody else was carrying, a sun umbrella; and in doing this, he remained under the radar of everybody on that beach and was free to carry out his nefarious plan of murder. This simple tactic can be applied in all elements of warfare, including 5th dimension cyber-warfare and in the use of propaganda.

As Armed Citizens, we have to understand that a wide variety of terrorist groups all over the Globe, including ISIS, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram have subscribed to this Active Shooter (and Knife) Tactic for over a decade now. When you look back at the success to failure ratio of most of these attacks, compared to total number of people killed, you can see why they still attempt these attacks year after year. It is also important for the Western mind to grasp that the terrorist DO NOT see their DEATHS as a failure in these attacks, on the contrary, they see it as a success. Bottom line, martyrdom during jihad is the pinnacle of these twisted peoples short lives.

Here is a small list: 

  • Mumbai Attacks, 2008 (164 killed)
  • Fort Hood, TX Shooting in 2009 (14 killed)
  • Westgate Shopping Mall, Nairobi Kenya in 2013 (67 Killed)
  • The Charlie Hebdo Massacre in Paris (12 Killed)
  • Tel Aviv Attack (12 People Stabbed on Bus)
  • Attempted Shooting in Garland, TX (2 shooters killed)

So in closing, how do you pre-empt an attack you can’t see coming? As a civilian, that is a hard question to answer, because there are so many variables at play. As a LEO or Security Pro, there would be a myriad of things you could do to heighten physical security, but as a civilian, the simple response is you can’t. I know there are a lot of tactical gurus out there telling you to always be in “Condition Yellow or Red” but even that advice in this scenario is impotent, because the enemy is not giving anything to CUE off of so you can react.

Add to this dilemma that if we use the majority of past attacks as an indicator, there is a good chance that future active shooter attacks will feature these elements:

  • More than one shooter
  • Shooters Wearing body armour
  • Use of assault rifles
  • Each shooter carrying 3 to 6 magazines, each
  • Some shooters have had military training on assaults

The only sensible thing you can do as an armed civilian is to ensure your firearms training reflects all of these realities:

  • Your Goal is to ESCAPE the Kill Zone, not be a Hero (Egress)
  • Be prepared to KILL if the situation calls for it (Violence of Action)
  • Be ready to REACT with speed on multiple targets with your sidearm
  • Be able to MOVE (toward cover or exits preferably) and SHOOT at same time
  • Understand the need to transition to a HEAD SHOT if shooter is wearing body armor
  • Again, ALWAYS Fight to Egress out of the Kill Zone! (Egress!!)

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

5 thoughts on “Learning from Terrorist Tactics: Becoming Anonymous

  1. And then you have the UK government’s approach.
    Disarm the general public thus swamping the shooter with a target rich environment and hope they run out of ammunition.
    Good isn’t it?

    • Well you can’t blame them, they are only following Americas lead..they even recently built a wall at Calais Terminal..a wall? really?

    • The majority of America GP since the Snowden debacle cannot separate personal freedoms from national security, unfortunately, Dwight Eisenhower already commented on these folks: “A People that value it’s Privileges over its Principles soon lose both.”

Comments are closed.