The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 6, 2013

Military tactics, arms, helped rescue hostage

(Continued)

The raid on the bunker was carried out by the FBI's hostage response team, which serves as the agency's full-time counterterrorism unit, Pack said Wednesday. Trained in military tactics and outfitted with combat-style gear and weapons, the group was formed 30 years ago in preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Composed of FBI agents, some of whom have prior military experience, the team is deployed quickly to trouble spots and provides assistance to local FBI offices during hostage situations. It has participated in hostage situations more than 800 times in the U.S. and elsewhere since 1983, the FBI said.

"As an elite counterterrorism tactical team for law enforcement, the HRT is one of the best, if not the best, in the United States," Sean Joyce, deputy FBI director, said in a statement released during the Alabama standoff.

In addition to employing its counterterrorism unit, the FBI brought out a full array of military-style equipment, including armored personnel carriers and combat rifles. Many were visible at the scene during the standoff.

About a dozen active-duty Navy Seabees helped law enforcement authorities build a mock-up of the bunker that was used to plan the assault.

"This was a classic, textbook situation," said Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI negotiator who worked with the hostage rescue team repeatedly before retiring in 1995.

Building a replica of Dykes' bunker, practicing an assault, negotiating Dykes into a sense of security and even sneaking a camera into the shelter are all part of the agency's tools, said Van Zandt. He saw nothing unusual in the agency's tactics or the methods it used in ending the standoff along in a dirt road in southeast Alabama.

"I don't want to say this was routine, but this is what negotiators and team members train to do all the time," added Van Zandt, president of Van Zandt Associates, Inc., a Virginia-based company that profiles and assesses threats for corporate clients.

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