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Finnish police, Border Guard join exercises to combat terrorism at sea

The series of international Europol training exercises is meant to develop responses to international crisis situations.

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A member of the "Bear Squad" or Rapid Response Unit climbs aboard a ship. Image: Helsingin poliisilaitos

Finland's Police Rapid Response Unit and Border Guard are participating in an international anti-terrorist training operation in the Baltic Sea this week, according to the Helsinki police department. The exercises are taking place in German waters and involve responding to the staged naval hijacking of a German ship.

The exercises by police agency Europol aim to test the capabilities of Finland and eight other European countries in real-life hostile crises.

The hijacking exercise is part of a two-day series of anti-terrorist training drills collectively called the Atlas Common Challenge. The operations brought together a total of 38 member units from the EU-wide ATLAS network of tactical police units, founded in 2001.

Scenarios recreated in the Atlas Challenge include bus and metro hijackings as well as attacks in public spaces. Finland's units only took part in the boat hijacking exercise, nicknamed Triton.

Detective inspector Jari Kaikko from the Helsinki police department said in a release that during the exercises alert came without warning and without prior knowledge of the location of the orchestrated attack.

"Our first response is to move the units out to the location as soon as the call is received," he said. "Then we review the situation, begin reconnaissance and plan out a course of action."

Kaikko said the exercise includes practicing first aid on board and transporting wounded police ashore.

Navy's Baltic Shield drills

This month the Finnish Navy has been participating in joint exercises alongside the Estonian Navy in the Archipelago Sea and Gulf of Finland, according to the Finnish Defence forces.

The Baltic Shield drill is a mine counter-measures and firing exercise for vessel units, which started at the beginning of October and are wrapping up on Thursday.

The Defence Forces said some 90 Finnish troops and about 70 Estonians are taking part in the exercise.

According to Estonian public broadcaster ERR, part of the exercises by the two navies will involve tracking down ordnance from the two world wars at the bottom of the sea.

The Estonian Navy said that any explosives found will be defused, according to ERR.

Wednesday October 10, 2018, 2:35 pm: This story was updated to add information about the Baltic Shield exercises.

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