A large-scale mock terror attack staged by the Met police did not give the attackers a “clear cause or ideology” after widespread criticism of a previous exercise in which the attackers were presented as Muslim.
Scotland Yard sidestepped another potential controversy during its huge counter terrorism drill at Heathrow Airport this weekend, which involved 1,200 people, including actors, paramedics and counter-terror police
In a press release the force said that, on Saturday, officers and volunteers re-enacted an “armed terrorist attack scenario” in which hostage and siege situations were played out.
But responding to questions about how the mock terrorists were potrayed, the Met told HuffPost UK: “For the purposes of the exercise, the ‘terrorists’ involved in the live-play scenario were not aligned to any particular cause or ideology.”
The shift in approach comes after a similar exercise at Manchester’s Trafford Centre shopping complex two years ago was criticised for perpetuating racial stereotypes.
In footage sent to broadcasters at the time, an actor posing as a suicide bomber was shown raising his arms and shouting threateningly before a flash bang explosion.
The Manchester operation was forced to apologise after it emerged the mock bomber’s shout of “Allahu Akbar” was scripted by police, which was criticised as “ill-judged” and “unacceptable” by the then Manchester mayor, Tony Lloyd.
That exercise came just 12 months before a suicide bomber killed 22 people at the nearby Manchester Arena at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
Terminal 1, which closed in 2015, presented what counter-terror chiefs described as a “once in a generation” opportunity to test responses to an attack in a realistic, but fully controlled, environment.
Officials also confirmed for the first time on Monday that the terminal was used for four separate smaller scale exercises last year.
Despite the scale of the operation, codenamed Raptor, just a handful of images have been released. All of the official photography released so far portrays scenes outside the terminal building.
No photographs show the mock terrorists, and the force has declined to release video footage.
Heathrow Airport said any decisions over filming and publicity were the responsibility of Scotland Yard and declined to comment further.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “Given the sensitive nature of the location, tactics and operational units involved in the scenario, no video of the exercise is available for release to media or the public.
“The exercise has not been carried out in response to any specific threat or intelligence. However, the scenario has been put together based on tactics that have been used in terrorist attacks both in the UK and internationally in recent years in order to give our officers and staff the most effective training experience possible.”