Police ill-equipped to defend against an American Beslan
In 2004, Chechen terrorists associated with al-Qaida seized a school building in Beslan, Russia, and slaughtered 338, including 172 children.
Three years later, schools and local police in this country are still unprepared to deal with such an assault, experts warn. Most don't have response plans for handling a single active shooter, let alone a cell of trained terrorists launching a large-scale attack.
Yet terror cells secreted inside America may be planning to use buses, as well as other vehicles and methods, as a Trojan horse to infiltrate school campuses and massacre students and teachers.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department last month distributed a bulletin to law enforcement across the country warning that Muslims with "ties to extremist groups" are signing up to be school bus drivers. They also noted "recent suspicious activity" by foreigners who either drive school buses or are licensed to drive them.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
"The enemy is infiltrating us at all levels, and certainly school bus drivers are one area to look at," warned retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, president of Killology Research Group, an anti-terror consultancy that trains the FBI and other law enforcement. "And how about high school, middle school and elementary school cafeteria workers? Janitors? Delivery people?"
Grossman says some school district security officials he works with have expressed concerns about some of the Muslim employees schools are hiring.
"But no one dares profile them," he told WND.
"Islamic terrorists are already in place in the U.S. and, yes, that includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers and also airport workers," added Grossman, a former Army Ranger and West Point professor.
Floor plans for schools in Virginia, Texas and New Jersey have been recovered from terrorist hands in Iraq, he notes. Videotapes confiscated in Afghanistan show al-Qaida terrorists practicing the takeover of a school.
Simultaneous attacks on schools in multiple states would follow Osama bin Laden's goal of crippling the U.S. economy. If multiple schools were hit, Grossman says, parents would drop out of the work force en masse to protect their children. A prolonged labor disruption would cost businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue.
The 9/11 mastermind now in custody at Gitmo recently suggested al-Qaida may be targeting school children. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said in his confession before a military tribunal that while he may not like killing kids, they're fair game in jihad. He claims U.S. forces bombed and killed the children of bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and arrested and "abused" his own children.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, an al-Qaida spokesman has claimed Muslims have the right to kill up to 2 million American children in retaliation for Muslim children killed in Muslim lands.
"Osama bin Laden has promised that what has happened in (Beslan) Russia will happen to us many times over," Grossman said. "And Osama tries very hard never to lie to us."
Experts say terrorist cells are aided by many facilitators inside American cities who canvass targets and perform other logistics for such attacks.
"They are in the U.S., in all aspects of life, including the schools – and not just as bus drivers," Grossman said. "And American school children may pay the price," if schools and local law enforcement fail to implement counterterror plans.
Recent events come on top of several other school bus-related incidents involving Mideast men that raise suspicion of terror activity.
They include last year's surprise boarding of a school bus in Tampa, Fla., by two Saudi men dressed in trench coats. Authorities suspect they were making a dry run to see how easy it would be to hijack or blow up a school bus filled with innocent American students.
Previously, an Arab man from Detroit was caught trying to obtain a job as a school bus driver in New York using fake Social Security documents.
Experts also worry about terrorists operating independently of al-Qaida. "There are many lone wolves and self-starters out there who could attack at any time," Grossman warned.
Muslim gunman Sulejman Talovic was loaded for bear in February when he opened fire on shoppers in a Salt Lake City mall. He was armed with a shotgun, a .38 pistol and a backpack full of ammunition. He killed five and would have kept killing if an alert off-duty police officer hadn't returned fire and helped stop him.
If the 18-year-old Bosnian immigrant had targeted his old high school in a similar rampage, the number of body bags would have been horrific, experts say. Such a scenario is local law enforcement's worst nightmare, because school resource officers, or SROs, are ill-equipped to handle such assaults.
Homeland security consultants recommend arming all SROs and training them in SWAT tactics to repel such attackers.
"The time may come when that one cop will have to keep several adults at bay, preventing them from prosecuting their assault plan on our kids until support arrives," said John Giduck, president of Archangel Group, an antiterror training service.
Recent attacks on children in schools in Athens, Ga., Bailey, Co., Red Lake, Minn., and Nickel Mines, Penn., occurred in the absence of armed SROs.
"We can't think that Columbine will be the worst tactical circumstances our SROs will face," warned Giduck, author of "Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America's Schools."