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As many continue to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, extensive preparations for her funeral are in full swing.
On Monday, leaders from around the world will gather at Westminster Abbey in London for a ceremony to honor the late Queen. Everyone from US President Joe Biden to Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to attend, as hundreds of thousands of spectators gather nearby.
This is expected to create an unprecedented and challenging security situation for the officials in charge.
A quick look at the numbers
Around 750,000 people are expected to come to London for the state funeral and pay their respects to the Queen, according to The Guardian. By comparison, around 200,000 made the journey in 2002 to do the same after the Queen Mother’s death.
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The Guardian spoke to Bob Broadhurst, who was in charge of security and logistics for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding and the 2012 London Olympics. He estimated that up to 10,000 police officers would be deployed to enforce the operation each day, including some who would travel from across England for the occasion. He also noted that 1,500 military personnel will also be on standby to provide assistance.
Authorities will be located across the city, including public transport hubs, royal parks and residences. Armed guards will monitor the procession, and rooftop snipers have also been called in.
Modern security threats
Princess Diana’s funeral 25 years ago may be the closest precedent to what is expected next week, says former UK counter-terrorism co-ordinator Nick Aldworth. But he adds that the “threat profile” has “changed dramatically” in recent decades, and especially since the 9/11 attacks.
“We’ve seen the metamorphoses of terrorism take a further step from the creation, organization and leadership of terrorist organizations to virtually social mobilization of lone actors—people who self-radicalize and then either plan an attack or actually carry one out,” Aldworth told NPR.
He said the authorities would be extremely vigilant about those who might try to slip through the cracks, and anyone who wanted to walk past the coffin and pay their respects would be screened. The movement of vehicles around the perimeter of the territory will be prohibited.
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Another new threat that Aldworth said they need to keep an eye on? Aircraft, including drones.
“We’ve had cases of drones being used nefariously in the UK recently. And we’ve been very, very effective at identifying them, tracking them down and arresting the offenders,” Aldworth said.
Short guest list and specific instructions
Operation London Bridge has already attracted attention for its unusual approach to the guest list, as well as the transport for the many celebrities who plan to attend.
According to documents obtained by POLITICO, world leaders, including President Biden, have been instructed to bring only their spouses or partners to the funeral. This differs from other high-profile funerals, such as Nelson Mandela’s 2013 funeral, which was attended by Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.
The Commonwealth Office of Foreign Affairs and Development, which is responsible for coordinating the event, noted in its protocol that Westminster Abbey would be so full that it would be impossible to accommodate more guests than they had already taken.
They are also asking for foreign heads of state to use commercial flights to enter the UK and to ban the use of private helicopters for ceremonies. Dignitaries are also advised not to use their own state vehicles for transport to the funeral itself, and will instead be flown in groups from the West London venue. However, authorities said Biden would not have to board the bus if he did not want to.
Radio interview with Nick Aldworth produced by Michael Levitt and edited by Christopher Intagliato.