May 27, 2024

monitoring units

Eco Cobra / DSE


Exercise Firestorm was a cross-border exercise conducted by Europol. A section of the exercise took place from 6 to 9 March 2023 in Western Austria. The goal was to practice cross-border surveillance and communication between countries.

“Firestorm” was organized by the Directorate of Special Forces of the Ministry of the Interior, together with the Atlas Network and the “European Monitoring Group”, a network of European monitoring units. The exercises took place from 6 to 9 March 2023 in different European countries. The goal was to practice cross-border communication and cooperation between individual special units. In addition to Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Ireland and Great Britain took part in the cross-border tactical exercises.

In order to depict a realistic scenario, base the exercise on a text. In this way, monitoring operations must be trained in real time. The scenario: Two former IRA fighters and now members of a criminal organization fly from Ireland to Austria. There they cross the borders into Switzerland and Germany to meet up with contacts. It is up to the countries’ special units, in Austria, the Directorate of Special Units / Einsatzkommando Cobra, to ensure constant monitoring and to maintain contact between units. The police officers do not know the content of the text, only the coaches know the targets towards which the offenders and the contact persons are heading.

exercise path

The day begins for the control units at Innsbruck Airport. When a rental car is seized by perpetrators after it has landed, members of the probation unit send the vehicle’s make, color, and license plate number. The Austrian police contact the German and Swiss police. If the perpetrators cross the border, police officers in neighboring countries are ready and can take over surveillance. When the perpetrators cross the border into Germany, German units take over. Surveillance units record all movements of the targeted persons. Pictures and information are continuously transmitted to the participating countries.

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Target persons leaving Austria at noon, for Austrian units it was no longer the target persons who mattered, but contact persons. They cross the Swiss border and drive to an abandoned office building. Task Force Cobra and the Swiss Special Forces prepare for the joint arrival. Then everything goes very quickly. With guns ready, the cops rush out from hiding and storm the office building. Every room is searched, and the two contacts are overpowered and arrested. The main perpetrators will only be found in the Netherlands by local special forces.

about “firestorm”

However, the attacks were not the focus of the exercise: it was important to ensure continuous monitoring even when the targeted persons crossed borders and to be in constant contact with units of neighboring countries. The exercise, coordinated by Europol, was organized across fifteen national borders. It is part of a larger European strategy to monitor perpetrators and their contacts in the event of cross-border threats and to ensure Europe’s security.

The Atlas Network is a collaborative platform of 38 special forces from the European Union member states plus Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom. In order to ensure the security of Europe, such exercises must be carried out regularly. Good cooperation between special units is a prerequisite for success in emergencies. Since 2019, the Atlas Network Support Office has been located at Europol headquarters to promote close cooperation. The European Monitoring Group (ESG) is a network of police monitoring units from the EU member states Norway, Great Britain and Switzerland. Europol supports the network and cooperation between ESG and ATLAS.

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Article No.: 22558 starting Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 09:30
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