Fifteen South African police divers last month graduated from a specialised underwater explosives training course facilitated through the Office of Antiterrorism Assistance in the United States’ Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The US Embassy in Pretoria says the three-week Underwater Explosives Incident Countermeasures Course (UWEIC) is designed to provide specialised underwater technical training to law enforcement personnel.
“Using lecture, group discussion, and practical exercises, this course augments the abilities of law enforcement dive teams to plan and conduct emergency response to counter suspect underwater improvised explosive devices,” the embassy said in a media release.
US Consul General Jill Derderian says the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program — better known by its acronym, ATA — started in 1983. This was the year the Islamic Jihad movement attacked US and French barracks in Beirut, killing 220 US Marines and 79 French soldiers in a double suicide truck bombing.
Derderian says the ATA has since provided “training and equipment to foreign law enforcement and security organisations, in order to enhance capacity around the world to detect, deter, counter, and investigate terrorist activities.
“Since its inception, ATA has trained and assisted more than 61,000 foreign law enforcement personnel from 154 countries, including South Africa, she said in a speech prepared for delivery at the graduation ceremony in Durban on November 20.
“For this particular training course on underwater explosive detection, the US has provided [the police] with $120 000 — or about R900 000 — of diving equipment.
“I had a chance to speak with the lead trainer, Jon DiMartino, who told me that, of all the groups that he had worked with in more than a dozen different countries around the world, this group was by far the most impressive, and the best organised.
“And, Jon said that he and his fellow trainers learned a great deal themselves from the participants from [the police] and observers from the South African Navy.
“I think that these mutual benefits speak volumes about the importance of collaboration, and working together.”
Derderian said she understood the course was the first of several being conducted by ATA in South Africa in coming months.
Pic: US Consul General Jill Dederian with Deputy Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula.