Elimination of a VBIED Factory - After Action Report 1905a
Updated: Jan 14
**DISCLAIMER** This event is a simulated experience for amateurs and enthusiasts. The event uses airsoft to simulate real firearms. NO REAL FIREARMS WERE PRESENT. The event was coordinated with local law enforcement, and at no time were airsoft guns used outside of the venue. All activities were carefully planned to ensure compliance with the law, the safety of the general public and that of the participants.
On May 25th, 2019, Blackline Events produced a high stakes espionage and tactical role playing experience. This took place in the Greater Toronto Area, and involved the support of Chimera Firearms Training. This event consisted of weeks of work on the part of the participants as they generated information, intelligence, and plans in order to be successful. With the exception of the scenario, opposing forces, and any information provided by the 'Intelligence Division', this event was completely developed by the participants.
1905a SCENARIO BACKGROUND
In late April, 2019 there was a dramatic increase in VBIEDs in the Greater Toronto Area resulting in over 250 casualties. A number of groups claimed responsibility for the actions, but analysis of the explosions indicated they were the work of a single manufacturer previously known to intelligence as PRIMROSE.
While the bombmaker's location had remained a mystery for several years, intelligence recently developed an asset with connections to the bombmaker's network. Over the course of a week in mid-May, the asset was able to provide the location of a dead drop used by the network, and a set of floor plans for an abandoned theater being used as a VBIED factory. The asset also indicated that a courier (BUMBLEBEE) was expected to access this dead drop sometime on the 25th of May and then head to a meeting with PRIMROSE. This information was immediately passed to a Task Force for development and prosecution.
TARGET PACKAGE DEVELOPMENT
The task force determined there were three phases to the operation: Locate and track the courier, confirm the target structure, and conduct a raid on the target to eliminate the bomb factory. They also identified one clear go/no go condition: to clearly identify the structure the courier entered in order to link BUMBLEBEE, PRIMROSE, and the factory.
With numerous components to the upcoming mission, the task force self-organized around various tasks.
Confirming the target structure began with one team assessing the floor plans provided by the intelligence division. Architectural and photographic specialists began applying dimensions to the crude drawing and searching for abandoned structures matching the configuration within the area. OSINT (YouTube, Google Maps, web searches) were used to identify a few possible candidates.
The drawings indicated a pair of rooms that appeared to be theaters. With that information, the team was able to narrow the target list down to two theaters in the Greater Toronto Area. Confidence that one of these buildings was the target began to increase with further analysis of the building on Speers Road. Assessment of street view imagery along with scaling and overlaying floor plans onto the structure yielded positive results. With this evidence, command directed the assault teams to start preparing plans for the Spears Road target while awaiting further information from intelligence.
Meanwhile, the surveillance team (Team 14) began the task of locating and tracking the courier by evaluating the environment around the dead drop location. The asset had informed intelligence officers that the dead drop was a key lockbox located on a bicycle lock post on Bay Street in downtown Toronto. This dead drop was the final stop in a communications network bringing messages to PRIMROSE. The surveillance team conducted advanced reconnaissance of the dead drop site, including confirmation of the actual lockbox location and selecting inconspicuous observation posts with excellent egress routes.
Team 14 also supported the assault elements with similar assessments of the possible Speers Road target building. Over the course of several days, elements from 14 conducted multiple clandestine trips to the site gathering up-to-date building photographs and identifying observation posts with the best views of the structure. The surveillance team developed documents illustrating local population dress and demeanor to assist teams with blending into the environment.
Four days prior to the expected courier pickup, the Intelligence Division identified a burner phone that had previously belonged to BUMBLEBEE. While several months out of date, phone records were pulled, including the geolocation of the cell phone while it was operating. This was passed to the task force. Teams were able to find three key patterns in the data. First, it clearly showed activity near the dead drop site. Second, it illustrated a more diffused pattern of use near the Speers Road site which included several retail outlets. Finally, it suggested a method of travel between the dead drop and VBIED factory. Pings near Union Station (a major rail hub), rail stations near the target site, and along the rail network in between the locations made it very likely BUMBLEBEE would travel by rail.
This data was critical to surveillance teams. Team 14 quickly adapted their plans. Decisions were made to reduce their dead drop observation team size, and place personnel at Union Station and near the rail stations to the west. While the smaller dead drop team would make it harder to track the courier upon pickup, it added layers of redundancy and the opportunity to be out ahead of the courier's movements.
For the assault teams, this geolocation data added more evidence that the Speers Road site was indeed the VBIED facility. With this confidence, leadership gave a green light to begin rehearsals for a Speers Road assault plan, and local studio space was acquired for training.
25 MAY was cool and rainy as surveillance and assault teams rallied at their respective sites. Surveillance stood up their watch on the dead drop and rail stations while the assault teams met to begin rehearsals.
The assault consisted of a few key phases. A small team (15) would make entry at the rear of the structure and establish a foothold in a long hallway. Team 15 would then check doors for traps and disarm any that threatened operations. This team would be followed by a larger assault force (Team 16) which would enter by the front or rear doors based on the resistance encountered by 15.
Supporting this assault would be the surveillance team. Assuming they had finished their tracking of the target to the facility, they would become support for the front side entry. They would enter alone, or with the support of the 16 elements.
At all points, the entire force was reminded of the principles of surprise, and violence of action. While all attempts at entry would be as stealthy as possible, compromise of the force was to be met with overwhelming firepower. To support this, Team 15 was equipped with a pair of machine guns.
At the studio, the Tactical Operations Centre launched live tracking of the surveillance teams and established communications networks. Using scale models developed by task force members, 15 and 16 fine-tuned entry plans. The floor plans annotated by the architectural experts were used to generate tape lines on the floor so full-scale rehearsals could be conducted. Over the next few hours, task force members practiced equipping themselves in the simulated confined spaces and checking for traps. There was a desire to use as much time as was available to discover and eliminate issues with the plan.
Unfortunately, rehearsal time became limited just after 0900h. An individual accessed the dead drop.
The suspect, wearing a grey hoodie, taupe pants, heavy rubber boots, and carrying a black duffle bag collected unknown items from the dead drop and began to move on Bay Street. He was immediately tagged as BUMBLEBEE/SAM by Team 14.
This triggered an immediate response from the surveillance team. Images were captured of the subject as elements left their observation positions and began to cover possible movement routes. Unfortunately, shortly after this initial contact, the subject was lost. Teams spread onto major intersections and passed the captured imagery to the task force.
With the assistance of the photos captured by the team, the Intelligence Division was able to reacquire BUMBLEBEE traveling southbound near Nathan Phillips Square.
Once again, teams repositioned and were able to maintain observation for a short period before losing the target a second time. The challenges of the downtown area with multiple alleys, streets, and large populations were making it difficult to track the subject.
The decision to pull personnel from the dead drop observation team was beginning to look like a mistake when the call came in from Union Station. Thanks to the prepositioning of personnel along the rail network and the photos captured by team members, BUMBLEBEE had been reacquired by a task force member at the rail hub. The subject was beginning to demonstrate counter-surveillance tactics, as he had changed clothing in an attempt to break free of any observation.
Teams rapidly relocated to Union Station as the BUMBLEBEE boarded a westbound train heading toward the suspected target building on Speers Road. Surveillance elements boarded the train and were able to update the task force with new photos with the subject.
With surveillance teams on the train, the remaining 14 elements broke off contact and retreated to their vehicles in order to move to the area of Speers Road.
Over the next 20 minutes, 14 elements drove to meet up with the teams positioned near the stations in the target area. Assets on the train were able to report the progress of BUMBLEBEE in real-time allowing 14 to create a tighter net near the stations.
Upon arrival at the station closest to the Spears Road site, BUMBLEBEE exited the train, followed closely by the rail-borne 14 elements. Surveillance was easier to conduct in this less congested area. With longer visual ranges and more room for vehicles, 14 was able to track BUMBLEBEE for almost all of his activities through the region. Despite the occasional loss of contact as he entered businesses, reports continued to suggest he was closing in on the target building. Around this time, BUMBLEBEE began checking over his shoulder and doubling back on his routes indicating he was attempting to locate surveillance.
This increased level of awareness was not the only sign the task force was closing in on the target. Observation teams began to notice other individuals in the area that did not fit the baseline dress and behaviour of the locals. Images of these personnel passed back to the Intelligence Division matched individuals on watch lists.
Back with the assault team, rehearsals transitioned into radio and kit checks. Teams began to load vehicles and stand by for clear identification of the target structure.
BUMBLEBEE was photographed entering the Speers Road site. Command gave a green light for the assault and half a dozen vehicles sped away from the rehearsal space to the building.
Meanwhile, Team 14 was building a perimeter around the location. Thanks to the advanced reconnaissance work, elements took up observation posts east and west of the structure with clear lines of sight to all entrances. During the ingress of the assault elements, 14 was able to gather more information about the threat inside the structure. Monitoring new faces entering and exiting the structure as well as food delivery to the site, surveillance teams were confident in estimating there was approximately six to seven personnel inside. This information passed to the assault element for last-minute adjustments to plans.
Command elements conducted final checks with all units to ensure the accountability of personnel. Then, at precisely 1324h, 15 element lead gave the command to execute the breach. It occurred without incident.
Equipping themselves, 15 shifted to the internal door as rehearsed.
Upon initial inspection, multiple traps and early warning devices were detected. 15 began to disable these devices, but they were unable to remain completely silent during this activity. Meanwhile, 14 elements continued to observe the front of the structure and watched more individuals move into the building. A female suspect was spotted standing near the entrance, but could not be clearly linked to the individuals inside.
After working through the devices on the rear door, 15 made entry into theater one just after 1347h. Due to the noises produced during EOD work, a hard compromise occurred and heavy resistance was encountered.15’s contingency plan was activated: suppress with extreme prejudice. Machine guns began to bark away from the entry door into the vast space of theater one while elements poured in behind and moved to improve their fields of fire. Team 16 activated their own contingency plan and moved to their secondary entry point on the front side of the structure to make entry with the elements from 14.
During the move, elements from 14 approached the woman in front of the building. They confirmed she was a civilian and she was moved out of the area for her safety. Three minutes after the hard compromise at the back door, the combined 14 and 16 team entered the front of the building and began engaging targets in the lobby space. Most of the resistance came from a dividing wall between the lobby area and the theater entrances. While these hostiles were engaged, a secondary element headed up the stairs immediately in front of the door to investigate the room above ultimately finding nothing of interest. They declared it clear at 1349h.
With the assistance of heavy fire and maneuvering, 15 was able to establish a foothold in theater one and clear the space. The unit incurred several casualties from hidden firing ports in the wall between the theaters but was able to retain combat effectiveness. Coordinating with 14 and 16, teams were also able to eliminate the remaining targets within the lobby space. While the main teams then pivoted to assault theater two, a small group was detached to search the remaining rooms within the building.
During the secondary search, an undocumented mechanical room was identified on a second level accessed by a narrow ladder. This space was observed during the planning and site survey, but the access had not been identified. During an ascent into the space, a motion was detected in the room and based on the confined nature of the area, units pulled back. Verbal commands were issued for the suspect to surrender or the space would be subject to grenades and machinegun fire. Unsurprisingly, the individual was taken into custody moments later.
On the main level, the entry to Theater 2 was complicated by the lack of cover from the doors to the remaining areas of the room. In addition, a structure resembling a cleanroom could be seen and was concealing the rear section of the theater. A final coordinated and covered push into the space was successful, and a careful insertion eliminated several individuals.
At 1430h, the final shots were fired and the structure was declared clear. Teams shifted to SSE (Secure Site Exploitation) and EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) handling. During this process teams in theater two identified the space being used to assemble explosive devices. Multiple blocks of explosives, tools, and remote electronic detonation systems were identified and documented.
The SSE of enemy personnel also yielded critical documentation. The EKIAs (Enemies Killed in Action) and EPWs possessed satellite photos, sports schedules, and equipment rental receipts indicating a strike was being orchestrated on a major downtown Toronto sports venue. The strike was planned to occur that evening and would have produced hundreds of casualties. Among the EKIAs, the Intelligence Division was able to identify PRIMROSE and BUMBLEBEE.
Weeks of planning, reconnaissance, analysis, organization, and training led to the elimination of a prolific bomb-maker along with his communication and supply network. Despite not taking PRIMROSE alive, the equipment and intelligence gathered at the site is likely to yield new leads to additional threats. Overall, the command elements, planners, team members, and the intelligence division believe this constitutes mission success.
Elements utilized Zellowork as an iPhone and Android PTT for long-range communication. A full account of radio traffic from the event is available in the link below.
As always Blackline thanks those individuals who put the mission first. Teams 14, 15, and 16 along with dedicated TOC personnel.
A sincere thank you to our gracious host, Chimera Firearms.