Analysis: Dealing with this form of attack

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It’s quite hard to know how well the operation has gone because there is not much information coming out.

It’s an incredibly difficult situation to be in, more difficult than the Iranian embassy siege, for example, because these terrorists have got very different motivations – they’re happy to die if they need to. They will fight to the death, which makes it much more difficult.

The Kenyans will undoubtedly be calling on expertise from other parts of the world. Israel is, at the very least, providing advice and other assistance. The Israelis are particularly experienced at dealing with this sort of thing. I would think it’s highly likely there’s some form of assistance from the SAS and probably US special forces. I don’t think there will be a shortage of advice.

There may also be technical assistance because Kenya might not have the best equipment. It is also quite possibly the case that there will be foreign personnel involved.

It’s important to have some sort of dialogue with the terrorists, if that’s possible. Even the most fanatical terrorists have been talked down in the past.

I’m sure the Kenyan authorities will have attempted to open a dialogue. It’s always worth doing that, even if it’s just a delaying tactic.

Unlike terror groups which have political objectives and can benefit from showing restraint to hostages, the goal here is to inflict a devastating number of casualties.

They have no qualms about killing people in huge numbers. A long drawn-out siege is exactly what they want. They will have seen what happened in Mumbai and at the gas plant in Algeria.

I would expect more and more of these forms of attack in Africa, Asia and even in the UK. From the very beginning of this attack, they were separating out those people who are not Muslims to be butchered.

No hostage will be treated with any kindness. While this sort of attack could happen in the UK, it is less likely here. You need to be able to get hold of automatic weapons and explosives. While that’s not impossible, it would be much more difficult here.

An attack like this also involves a lot of planning and co-ordination, which would mean they would be more likely to be penetrated by the security services.

• Richard Kemp is a retired army colonel and former member of the Joint Intelligence Organisation in the Cabinet Office who is a senior associate fellow with the Royal United Services Institute.