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As it happened

Gunman Attacks Defence Ministry in Tallinn

One of the attacks in a public place which have received the broadest coverage in the recent 25 years was certainly the one in 2011, when an extremist perpetrator stormed into the building of the Ministry of Defence in the city centre on 11 August.

Events started unfolding at 15:08, when the police received a call stating that an unidentified person armed with a handgun had burst into the building of the Ministry of Defence and opened fire in the direction of the ministry’s security unit. The man also detonated DIY explosive devices, which let out smoke and made noise but, fortunately, did not injure people. During the attack, the gunner managed to hold two members of the Defence League, who had been guarding the building of the Ministry of Defence, at gunpoint for a short while, but they were able to escape. The perpetrator did not make any clear demands to anyone, verbally or otherwise.

Three minutes after the attack on the building, the ministry employees were ordered to stay in their offices and lock the doors. Some ten minutes later, the evacuation of the employees started through the windows of the first floor and the back door, like they had practiced during an exercise in the autumn of 2010. Until the incident was resolved, people were gathered inside the “Estonia” theatre.

The gunner was trapped in the administrative area on the first floor of the ministry for about two hours. Negotiators from the Estonian Internal Security Service tried to establish a contact with him at the scene, but the attempt failed. The administrative section was also where a gunfire exchange between the criminal and the special unit took place. Karen Drambjan, a lawyer who had expressed extremist political views, was killed at about 17:25 in the course of the gunfire exchange with the police special unit “K-Commando”. During the incident, one police officer sustained minor injuries, and another was hit in the bullet-proof vest, which did not result in injuries.

According to initial information, three undetonated DIY explosive devices were found at the scene and disposed of. A total of 10 explosive devices detonated on the site, damaging two EOD disposal robots.

Later the Internal Security Service found out that Drambjan had not intended to go to any specific employee of the ministry, but his plan to reach deeper into the ministry building was confirmed. Witnesses’ accounts give reason to believe that one of Drambjan’s motives was his desire for attention which would have given him an opportunity for a broader dissemination of his views and ideas. Drambjan had not found any support of his extremist opinions criticising Estonia’s nationalities policy among his friends and acquaintances. He had carefully monitored the media channels under the Kremlin’s control, and indirect evidence suggests that an attack on the Ministry of Defence was one of the routine items in the Kremlin propaganda avalanche in July and August that year.

After the so-called Drambjan’s case, the Ministry of Defence and numerous other vital state agencies enhanced security; evacuation plans were also reviewed, and various exercises were arranged.

What to do in a crisis

Every state does whatever it can to prevent or respond to crisis situations. Still, help will not always reach all people quickly enough because some crises can affect a large part of the population and last for days or even weeks.

Until help arrives and services are resumed, your welfare and that of your loved ones will largely depend on your own preparedness.

The web page “Kriis.ee” contains tips on how to get prepared for various types of crisis situations and what to do if there actually is one.

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