On Security

Understanding and Responding to Bomb Threats

Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Dec 29, 2016 | 08:00 GMT
Police and army personnel on guard during a bomb alert outside the Brussels-North train station, Oct. 5.
Police and army personnel on guard during a bomb alert outside the Brussels-North train station, Oct. 5.
(THIERRY ROGE/AFP/Getty Images)

Belgian authorities closed down the Brussels-North train station Dec. 27 in response to a telephoned bomb threat while authorities searched the station both visually and with explosive-detecting dogs. This marked the second time in two days the station was closed down after an anonymous bomb threat made during the peak evening rush hour. The station was reopened to train, bus and pedestrian traffic after searches turned up nothing, demonstrating that the calls were merely the latest in a long string of hoax bomb threats directed against the station. When authorities respond this way to an anonymous bomb threat, they cause significant disruptions and give those seeking to propagate terror a cheap, easy victory. Even worse than the fear they generate, such reactions to bomb threats can also provide terrorists with a soft target: Evacuating people from a place of relative security out into the open makes them more vulnerable to...

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