Garda teams track ‘terrorists’ across EU borders in training exercise

‘Operation Firestorm’ involved personnel from nine Europol member countries following fictional criminals

Garda surveillance and firearms officers tracked fictional terrorists across several European borders earlier this month as part of an EU-wide anti-terrorism exercise.

Between March 6th and 9th, as part of ‘Operation Firestorm’, gardaí from the National Crime and Security Intelligence Service, including Special Tactics officers, tracked the two male “terrorists” as they travelled from Belfast to Dublin and then onwards by plane to Austria.

The tracking was carried out under real world conditions. Gardaí continued to discreetly track the suspects once they landed in continental Europe and crossed various national borders. They were assisted by surveillance units from Austria, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg.

Undercover officers “followed the targets across borders while gathering information about the individuals’ nefarious plans,” said Europol, which co-ordinated the operation from its headquarters in The Hague.


The exercise culminated with “several simultaneous interventions” in Luxembourg and the Netherlands, involving armed tactical officers, which foiled the fictional attack planned by the suspects. It was the first Europol joint exercise between surveillance and intervention units across the EU.

“Operation FIRESTORM demonstrates that An Garda Síochána has the capacity and capability to be engaged in policing and security activities at the highest level,” said Assistant Commissioner Michael McElgunn, who is over the National Crime and Security Intelligence Service.

He said such exercises “are essential in ensuring Ireland and Europe’s readiness to respond to terrorist and criminal activity. An Garda Síochána will play its part in protecting domestic and international communities”.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times