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Alarmed Beijing stages the siege of Mumbai

world Updated: Dec 14, 2008 23:05 IST
Reshma Patil

Armed men in black rappelled out of a police helicopter within 10 seconds, slithered down a building through a gunfight and explosions, smashed windows and shot ‘terrorists’ to rescue ‘hostages’ trapped in a Beijing hotel on Saturday.

Relax, this was not the real thing.

Neighbouring China has wasted no time to practise a rescue act if the siege of Mumbai ever happened in its capital.

The ‘terrorists’ were really eggs swaying 15 metres away for target practice in an anti-terror drill. And each member of the elite Beijing Special Armed Police Unit (BSAPU), unlike India's cash-strapped counter-terrorism force, was outfitted with arms and equipment worth almost $44,000.

Last week, China’s Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu told a national coordination team on anti-terrorism that China should ‘seriously learn lessons’ from last month’s attacks on Mumbai, tighten security, and conduct anti-terrorism awareness in primary and middle-schools.

During Saturday’s drill, the police were up against a mock terror attack consisting of explosions and hostages in a hotel. The BSAPU landed on a rooftop, like the commandoes who entered Mumbai’s Nariman House.

“The drill was aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, especially after the Mumbai attack which had definite targets and a careful plan,” Xiao Yong, who heads the BSAPU, was quoted in the State-run Xinhua agency. “We noticed that the terrorists attacked different sites of the city in different ways such as explosions, shooting, kidnapping and a gunfight.”

Xiao said that the Unit, founded in 2005, has a ‘complete and cohesive’ counter-terrorism plan.

China says it faces a terror threat from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a shadowy group fighting for an independent East Turkestan in remote northwest Xinjiang. China blamed the group, which the United Nations declared a terrorist organisation in 2002, for several attacks in Xinjiang in the run-up to the Olympics. Its members are said to be training on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.