Police test multi-agency response with mock terror attack in Changi Airport

A Ground Response Force (GRF) officer (extreme right) from the Airport Police Division (APD) responding to a threat. The Rapid Deployment Troop (RDT) from the Special Operations Command (SOC), and police specialist officers also move in to respond to the threat.

SINGAPORE - The harsh sounds of gunfire and explosions filled the halls of Changi Airport Terminal 3 in the early hours on Tuesday (Oct 17), as part of a counter-terrorism drill.

Exercise Northstar - which saw security agencies responding to several simulated attacks -began at the platform of Changi Airport MRT station. Two gunmen, toting rifles loaded with blanks, began shooting at commuters after alighting from a train.

As officers from the Public Transport Security Command descended on them, one attacker seized a man and pointed a knife at his neck.

The officers opened fire, taking down the attacker. But his accomplice fled towards the T3 departure area.

In the next phase of the attacks, a suicide bomber ripped open his jacket shouting: "All of you will die!" The ensuing blast caused multiple casualties.

Amid panicked calls for help, four gunmen opened fire as members of the public scrambled to take cover behind the nearest check-in counters.

This was when the airport police division's ground response force entered the fray, and specialist police officers advanced on the attackers.

SPH Brightcove Video
"Attackers" storm Changi Airport, firing indiscriminately and setting off bombs, in Exercise Northstar. The 10th edition tests the response of key agencies, including the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, in the event of a terror attack.

The gunmen fled to the nearby transit area, continuing to shoot indiscriminately.

Giving chase, security forces were joined by the Special Operations Command's rapid deployment troops - the police's second wave of responders to active shooter incidents.

After they took down the remaining attackers, and the Singapore Armed Forces' chemical, biological, radiological, explosives defence group was activated to check on a baggage left by one of the men.

It turned out to be an improvised explosive device.

A robot was sent to investigate and detonate the explosive, which went off in a loud boom before an SAF soldier, wearing a protective suit, checked the situation and gave the all-clear.

Back in the departure hall, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) moved in to rescue injured victims while under police protection. Police officers from the criminal investigation department also documenting the evidence left behind after the suicide bombing.

Wearing bullet-resistant vests and ballistic-resistant helmets, SCDF officers evacuated casualties from the departure hall, to a first aid point nearby staffed by Ministry of Health personnel.

The counter-terrorism exercise, done for the first time at Changi Airport, is one of the ways the authorities test how multiple agencies respond to a terror strike.

The first phase of the exercise on Tuesday involved more than 650 personnel including those from the police, SAF, SCDF, and Changi Airport Group.

The second phase of Exercise Northstar - which began in 1997 and is in its 10th edition this year - will take place on Oct 28.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.