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Armed police take over Merry Hill shops in dramatic training exercise to prepare for attack by terrorist gunmen

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This was the dramatic scene as armed police took over intu Merry Hill to train for the possibility of an attack by terrorist gunmen on a major West Midlands landmark.

Police carrying automatic rifles took up positions outside Nando's, as actors posing as victims laid strewn across the floor of the shopping centre.

Images of the operation, which took place yesterday and was not publicised in advance, were released today. Police said they had kept the operation secret to allow the emergency services to respond as they would in a real attack.

It is one of a number of exercises that have taken place across the country to prepare for the threat of an attack by 'marauding gunmen', as was seen in Mumbai, and more recently in Paris.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said: "The area was tightly controlled and there was no impact on the public.

"Officers and security staff were on patrol during the night to reassure any local residents who may have been affected by increased activity, noise and presence of the emergency services. However, it was business as usual for the force and officers."

West Midlands Ambulance Service and West Midlands Fire Service took part in the operation.

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Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said: "Routine exercises like this are important as they enable us to test our ability to deal with large scale incidents. I would like to thank intu Merry Hill and the local community for their support.

"The exercise was not based on any threat or intelligence and although it is unlikely that an incident like this would occur, recent national and international events have once again highlighted the importance of public organisations testing their emergency response procedures to assure the safety of the communities we serve."

Dan Murphy, general manager of intu Merry Hill, said: "We took part in a live training exercise with local emergency services to test their response to a major incident.

"We were delighted to be able to help the emergency services, who work hard to keep our community safe, with one of their regular, planned exercises."

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