Elite Serb police officers and U.S. Embassy security personnel staged a joint anti-terrorist exercise Friday outside the embassy building in downtown Belgrade. Traffic was sealed off for more than an hour and police kept dozens of spectators and media at bay, as eight men in masks launched a mock attack on the U.S. Embassy, taking out entrance guards amid a crackle of pretend gunfire and reverberating alarm sirens.
Two Serbian police anti-terrorist squads, wearing gas masks and toting machine-guns, then stormed the compound enacting an operation Serbian police dubbed "Gate" to extricate hostages and capture "terrorists."
The gunmen were led away in handcuffs, while fake casualties were carried out on stretchers. Police helicopters whirred overhead, and a bomb squad searched the embassy perimeter and defused a pretend explosive device.
U.S. Ambassador Michael Polt and Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic attended the exercise. Embassy security officer Neil McNeil thanked Belgrade residents for their "cooperation and patience" during the "joint planning exercise."
During NATO's 1999 bombing campaign to halt Serbia's crackdown on Kosovo, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade was demolished and smashed by vandals. When the two countries restored diplomatic ties in 2000, the building, left to ruin and dilapidation, was fully restored.
On photo: Dragan Jocic.