Members of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Division of the Turkish Armed Forces have been deployed in Qatar to shield against the possible threat of a nuclear or chemical attack at the FIFA World Cup ahead of England’s first game. As Gareth Southgate’s three lions prepare to step on the field against Iran in Doha today, the first thing on the players’ minds will undoubtedly be doing their country proud and getting the result.
Perhaps less likely is the threat of an attack with chemical or nuclear weapons, but Turkey’s CBRN division is in Doha to play an active role in putting these possible fears to bed. The defense division is on duty 24 hours of the day and is ready to defend against all kinds of chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks, with a range of equipment in its inventory.
Stunning pictures of the squadron in their protective gear have also emerged, with the members of the division dressed in bulky beige suits while standing in the scorching Middle Eastern heat.
It comes after the Qatari government called on friendly and allied countries to contribute to the security of the biggest tournament in world sport by providing assistance to its armed forces.
To help support the Qatar Armed Forces, a Joint Task Force was formed with the participation of Turkey, with the US, UK, Italy, France, and Pakistan also providing assistance. Turkey also pledged to send more than 3,000 riot police officers to help secure stadiums and hotels, 100 special operations police officers, 50 bomb specialists and 80 sniffer dogs.
Qatar’s Ministry of Defence also announced that it signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Defence Department in Washington for US armed forces to contribute towards security at the World Cup.
Qatar’s defence ministry said in a statement earlier this month: “The technical arrangements aim to identify and put in place the responsibilities related to cooperation between the two sides, and the US armed forces’ contribution to providing support the FIFA 2022 World Cup event.”
The UN Security Council has addressed the threat of weapons of mass destruction and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism on a number of occasions, and set up its Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy to make sure these kinds of weapons do not end up in the hands of terrorists.
According to the UN’s website, the strategy exists to:
- Combat smuggling of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials
- Ensure that advances in biotechnology are not used for terrorist purposes
- Improve border and customs controls to prevent and detect illicit trafficking of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons and materials
- Improve coordination in planning a response to a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons or materials
And according to a study published in the PubMed Cental journal, “events in which people are intentionally using or accidentally exposing others to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) elements at sporting events constitute a serious, unique threat to the general public”.
The report adds: “Overcrowded sporting events can lead to the rapid spread of infectious diseases or mass casualties in the event of a CBRNE attack. Mass gatherings at sporting events are potential targets for terrorists using CBRNE action, as exemplified by bombings at the 1996 Atlanta Games, the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the 2015 Stade de France football (soccer) match.”
It also warns that we have a “limited understanding of key themes and best practices to mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from incidents”, but Turkey’s Armed Forces are expected to play a crucial role this World Cup.
And as part of cooperation between Qatar and NATO, the security alliance also pledged to provide security support for the World Cup, which included providing training against threats posed by CBRN materials. It also offered training for the protection of very important people (VIPs) and to counter threats posed by improvised explosive devices.
The Qatari authorities will also be intensively monitoring crowds and individuals as an estimated 1.2 million international visitors descend on the nation. According to some alarming travel advice from the British Government, “terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Qatar. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners”.
The travel advice adds: “You should maintain a high level of security awareness and vigilance, particularly during significant high-profile events such as the World Cup, and report anything suspicious to the local authorities.”
But Security expert Will Geddes told Metro.co.uk: “Qatar is a reasonably secure location given it is a small country and it is pretty easy to control that environment. The Qataris not only have their domestic security but they have brought in US and UK security advisors and personnel to assist.
“One thing you can say about Qatar is that they can throw money at security, making it very difficult for anyone to carry out an attack with any degree of sophistication. They will obviously be very conscious of the fact that they are now in the world’s glare when they have been striving for a long time to be the equivalent of Dubai. If they get this wrong, it will not aid their journey in trying to increase their profile.”