People leaving Shannon Airport and others at check-in desks were attacked by a group of armed men and women who forced them back into the terminal and held them hostage.

The airport yesterday played host to a major simulated multi-agency armed incident.

The bilateral training exercise involved various units of An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces and was facilitated by the Shannon Airport Authority (SAA) and Shannon Airport Police.

An Garda Síochána is the primary responsible agency in the event of an armed incident within the State and lead yesterday’s exercise.

The focus of the event was to examine how local gardaí, Garda operational and strategic command personnel, the ERU (Emergency Response Unit), ASU (Regional Armed Support Unit) and the Garda Air Support Unit would respond to a simulated major armed incident.

The exercise also included the Defence Forces tri-service assets comprising army perimeter security and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), Naval Service and Air Corps assets as well Shannon Airport Police personnel.

The Garda Emergency Response Unit storming the area in Shannon Airport to free the hostages. Picture: Hany Marzouk
The Garda Emergency Response Unit storming the area in Shannon Airport to free the hostages. Picture: Hany Marzouk

The exercise involved a simulated attack by a group of armed men and women who targeted people as they left the airport.

The passengers were forced back inside terminal where the armed gang then attacked other people at the check-in desks.

A number of hostages were taken to an upstairs room where they were held for some time.

In the meantime, armed gardaí began arriving at the airport along with a garda negotiator who quickly engaged the hostage-takers in conversation.

Members of An Garda Síochána negotiating with the ‘kidnappers’. Picture: Hany Marzouk
Members of An Garda Síochána negotiating with the ‘kidnappers’. Picture: Hany Marzouk

As the dramatic exercise developed, additional resources were deployed including the Garda Regional Support Unit who arrived by road while a Garda ERU insertion team was flown in onboard an Air Corps helicopter.

A garda sniper and spotter were also flown in by the Garda Air Support Unit.

The Army EOD deployed a robot to check the car in which the armed gang arrived.

Following tense negotiations, during which the hostage-takers said they wanted a friend released from prison, the situation escalated when one of the gunmen emerged with a woman at gunpoint. The man was shot by a member of the ERU while colleagues stormed the room and neutralised the situation.

Over 60 actors, made up of trainees from the Garda Training College in Templemore, played the part of passengers and hostages.

The event was attended by a large audience including Garda and Defence Forces management; members of the major emergency planning management Mid-West steering group; and other agencies from around the country.

A Garda spokesman said: “The objective of the exercise was to test the responses and interoperability of agencies in support of An Garda Síochána, who hold primary responsibility in such cases.”

The Army deployed a robot to examine a car outside the airport as part of the exercise. Picture: Hany Marzouk
The Army deployed a robot to examine a car outside the airport as part of the exercise. Picture: Hany Marzouk

The exercise director, Inspector Kieran Ruane of Ennis, said afterwards: “This exercise is extremely important for An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.

“We need to continually practice and fine tune our skills. It’s a perishable skill and it’s important that we maintain it.”

Niall Maloney, director of operations at the airport, said it was delighted to facilitate the bilateral training.

“The Shannon exercise is an important national training exercise and will assist Gardaí and Defence Forces personnel if such an event was ever to occur within the state,” he said.


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