Bulgaria Prepares for the Holidays

The following news report from Bulgaria describes the establishment of special counter-terror police units to guard against terrorist attacks in public spaces during the Christmas season. Tanya T, who translated the report for subtitles, points out the unprecedented nature of what is happening in Bulgaria:

The news is not the merging of elite police units for better coordination in case of terror attacks, as it appears on the surface. It’s that we NOW have heavily-armed specially trained policemen on the streets as well. For Christmas.

It may be something people in other parts of Europe are used to, but it’s totally new here. It’s shocking, and it’s not at all reassuring that it’s like that almost everywhere now. I’ve never seen this before in my entire life.

The policemen are instructed to beware of suspicious persons “from risk (or high-risk) countries”. Unfortunately, this is no overreaction — we were very close to an actual attack this year, which prompted the changes in the law and the creation of this unit.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Video transcript:

00:01   Anti-terrorist patrols will be on guard during the holidays.
00:04   Metro stations, airports, train stations, bus stations and big trade centers are now under guard.
00:08   The Gendarmerie units have special equipment
00:11   and are expected to become a part of the new counter-terrorism police structure.
00:15   Rumyana Popova with the details. Good evening, Rummi.
00:22   Good evening. Sofia Airport is one of the strategic spots
00:26   and is under special guard. And now — before the holidays —
00:30   there are heavily armed Gendarmerie units here.
00:34   It’s important to state that their presence at the airport right now is preventive —
00:38   it’s not due to a problem or an emergency situation.
00:42   People must know that during the following days [Xmas & NY Eve] they will see such patrols often
00:46   in Sofia and other bigger cities as well.
00:49   Let’s see the assigned task of these teams
00:52   that have gone through special anti-terrorist training.
00:59   Each duty begins with checking the arms and equipment.
01:08   The helmets are anti-ballistic, so that they can protect from bullets.
01:11   The vests are bulletproof, the arms — lighter.
01:14   Kalashnikov rifle, specially adapted,
01:17   with foldable stock for improved mobility,
01:21   special flash-suppressors, so that we can work in an urban setting…
01:26   The patrols are equipped with special gloves with built-in metal detectors,
01:30   and they react with vibration to all types of metal,
01:34   including phones.
01:38   I want you to be alert for suspicious persons from the so called “risk countries”.
01:43   Each team has concrete tasks for specific spots.
01:46   [Counter-terrorist — guns, flak jackets and dogs — on duty with a patrol]
01:52   We watch for suspicious, abandoned objects,
01:57   spread substances… These patrols are expected to become a part of the new counter-terrorism
02:02   police structure, which will unite the Gendarmerie and the “Barrets” [existing anti-terrorist unit]
02:06   This will greatly improve the command structure of these [anti-terrorist] forces
02:10   because in case of information [about a terror attack] and actions
02:14   we react together with our colleagues. [Head of Gendarmerie Directorate] The new police directorate
02:18   will specialize in countering terrorism, arrests of particularly dangerous criminals,
02:22   and rescuing hostages.
02:29   The formation of this new elite police unit
02:32   is part of the changes to the Interior Ministry Law,
02:35   which were already adopted at first reading in the Parliament.
02:38   Rumyana Popova. Thank you.