WASHINGTON – Three years after Muslim terrorists attacked a school in Beslan in North Ossetia-Alania within the Russian Federation resulting in 396 deaths and 437 injuries, terrorism and law enforcement experts say most U.S. schools have not prepared at all to deal with the possibility of such an assault.

More disturbingly, they say, such attacks are most definitely being prepared and rehearsed in Islamic terrorist camps around the world.

In videotapes captured in Afghanistan, al-Qaida terrorists practiced the takeover of a school – issuing commands in English, separating children into manageable groups and killing anyone who offered resistance. Some hostages were take to rooftops, dangled over the edge, then shot for the sake of cameras and onlookers.

In Iraq, the floor plans of several schools in Virginia, Texas and New Jersey were found in the possession of captured terrorists.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. law enforcement authorities have uncovered what appear to be probing missions by terrorists attempting to get jobs as school bus drivers and making inquiries about armed security personnel in schools.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has been attempting to get local law enforcement training for what he considers to be these inevitable attacks in the future. He points out how U.S. schools all have regular fire drills despite the fact that not one child has been killed by fire in an American school in the last 25 years.

“We need to treat the threat of violence like the threat of fire,” he tells those willing to listen.

Grossman and Todd Rassa, a trainer with the SigArms Academy, say the most likely targets of terrorist attacks in the U.S. are rural schools where response time by law enforcement is slow. The targets will probably be in states “with no concealed-carry laws and no hunting culture” and in communities where police do not have rifles.

Even though they say U.S. law enforcement can learn much about such attacks by studying Beslan, attacks in the U.S. will probably be different in some ways.

Some 100 terrorists were involved in that attack, nearly half of them embedded in a large crowd of parents, staff and children who showed up for the first day of school. Others arrived for the surprise attack in SUVs, troop carriers and bigger sedans.

Experts predict smaller groups of terrorists at any single location in the U.S. But Grossman expects simultaneous attacks at multiple school locations – at least four. Middle schools are the most likely targets because girls are old enough to rape but students are not big enough to fight back effectively.

They say the attackers will kill everyone they see – students, teachers and parents alike – as they move in to seize the school. They will plant bombs throughout buildings, while raping and murdering and throwing out bodies as they did in Beslan.

The pair of trainers say the most effective deterrent to such attacks is to ensure there is an armed presence within every school. They recommend armed security as well as encouraging teachers and administrators to carry firearms.

“Even one or two armed teachers in a school can make a difference,” says Grossman. “One man or woman with effective fire from behind cover inside the school can hold off a group of attackers for five minutes.”

That could be enough time for police, or other help, to get to the scene.

They say it’s also important to be vigilant in watching for reconnaissance efforts by terrorists. They will never attack a target without probing it first, say the experts. This could involve photographs and videotape.

In March, the FBI and Homeland Security Department distributed a bulletin to law enforcement across the country warning that Muslims with “ties to extremist groups” are signing up to be school bus drivers. They also noted “recent suspicious activity” by foreigners who either drive school buses or are licensed to drive them.

“The enemy is infiltrating us at all levels, and certainly school bus drivers are one area to look at,” warned Grossman, president of Killology Research Group, an anti-terror consultancy that trains the FBI and other law enforcement. “And how about high school, middle school and elementary school cafeteria workers? Janitors? Delivery people?”

Grossman believes some of those involved with future terrorist attacks on U.S. schools are already working inside the system – scoping out their targets.

“Islamic terrorists are already in place in the U.S. and, yes, that includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers and also airport workers,” said Grossman, a former Army Ranger and West Point professor.

Simultaneous attacks on schools in multiple states would follow Osama bin Laden’s goal of crippling the U.S. economy. If multiple schools were hit, Grossman says, parents would drop out of the work force en masse to protect their children. A prolonged labor disruption would cost businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue.

The 9/11 mastermind now in custody at Gitmo recently suggested al-Qaida may be targeting school children. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said in his confession before a military tribunal that while he may not like killing kids, they’re fair game in jihad. He claims U.S. forces bombed and killed the children of bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and arrested and “abused” his own children.

Recent events come on top of several other school bus-related incidents involving Mideast men that raise suspicion of terror activity.

They include last year’s surprise boarding of a school bus in Tampa, Fla., by two Saudi men dressed in trench coats. Authorities suspect they were making a dry run to see how easy it would be to hijack or blow up a school bus filled with innocent American students.

Previously, an Arab man from Detroit was caught trying to obtain a job as a school bus driver in New York using fake Social Security documents.

Experts also worry about terrorists operating independently of al-Qaida. “There are many lone wolves and self-starters out there who could attack at any time,” Grossman warned.

Muslim gunman Sulejman Talovic was loaded for bear in February when he opened fire on shoppers in a Salt Lake City mall. He was armed with a shotgun, a .38 pistol and a backpack full of ammunition. He killed five and would have kept killing if an alert off-duty police officer hadn’t returned fire and helped stop him.

“The time may come when that one cop will have to keep several adults at bay, preventing them from prosecuting their assault plan on our kids until support arrives,” said John Giduck, president of Archangel Group, an antiterror training service.

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Previous stories:

Terrorists coming to a school near you

Terrorism not ruled out in Salt Lake case

Saudis jump aboard Florida school bus

Minister witnesses grief of shattered Beslan

Muslims not to blame for Beslan massacre?

2nd Amendment activist: No Beslans in U.S.

Al-Qaida link to school massacre?

Chechen terrorists follow al-Qaida manual

At least 200 dead in school standoff

‘Schoolchildren’ shot in terror training tape

New al-Qaida training tape shows another side of terror

Related commentary:

No indication of terrorism, again

Another attack by Muslim, another ‘non-terrorist’ event

Beslan terror tragedy a U.S. possibility

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