In a shopping mall near Hartford, Ct., a conference room full of security guards is learning how to spot suicide bombers, the Associated Press reports. They are being taught blast patterns and behavior profiles, how a bomb is packaged and how a bomber is recruited. Mall security guards – whose jobs usually consist of watching for shoplifters and shooing away loitering teenagers – are getting the type of training that just a few years ago was reserved for the Israeli police and the U.S. military. “If they’re carrying a bag, look for that white-knuckle grip. They’re carrying that package and they’re holding onto it for dear life,” Patrick Chagnon, a Connecticut State Police detective and counterterrorism instructor, tells his class.
Students are told to watch for people wearing oversized clothes, to make eye contact with shoppers, and look for either extremely focused people or those who won’t return a look. Terrorists often ritualistically shave their bodies before carrying out a suicide bombing. Enrollment in suicide bombing classes has increased, and the students include not just elite SWAT team members, but also local patrol officers and private security forces. The International Council of Shopping Centers held about 20 anti-terrorism classes this year and plans dozens more next year.