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FBI, West Orange Police Conduct Mock Attack On Synagogue To Test Response

WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- With the High Holidays around the corner, synagogues across the Tri-State Area have been placed on high alert.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, the FBI used a synagogue in New Jersey to test its response Thursday.

The drill involved a simulation of people fleeing a synagogue, and a terrorist slitting the throat of a hostage and then setting off his suicide vest.

The drill was staged at Congregation Ahawas Achim B'Nai Jacob & David in West Orange. Local police, the FBI and its SWAT team were among the agencies involved.

Cameras watched every move – each officer and agent – with numbers on their backs. None of them were told what would happen.

"(These exercises are) important for us to see how well we're prepared," said Newark FBI Public Affairs Officer Celeste Danzi.

In the scenario in the drill, two terrorists barge onto a bus in front of the synagogue, killing the driver and several others.

Police arrive – guns with non-lethal paint pellets drawn. The officers wear masks to protect themselves from the simulated fake vest explosion enacted with baby powder.

"We had two terrorists inside the synagogue -- one with a rifle, one with suicide vest," said West Orange police Lt. John Morella.

There are 17 fake deaths in the simulation, including five terrorists. The rabbi at Congregation Ahawas Achim B'Nai Jacob & David was able to watch it unfold.

"To see them, you know, handle the scenario with such professionalism was comforting," said Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler. "On the other hand, you know, it's obviously very frightening to see it all go down."

The FBI said lone wolves are the biggest threat to the homeland.

"The less planning and coordination that the attacker does, the less opportunity there is for us to get involved in it," said Newark FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Garrett McKenzie.

Thus, the FBI relies on the community to report suspicious activity, so as to prevent real-life acts of terror.

Authorities will view all the footage of the mock attack, critiquing it to see how they can better their response. Preliminarily, they said everyone did great, responding as they should.

The camera technology was provided by Picatinny Arsenal.

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