SBS Hostage Rescue


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Aug 17, 2007
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CRACK Special Boat Service commandos snatched two Italian hostages from the Taliban yesterday in a dramatic helicopter shoot-out.

Elite Navy unit troops in choppers chased an insurgent gang fleeing across the remote Western desert in the Afghan badlands, trading bullets as they flew.

All nine rebels were killed after airborne snipers shot out the engines of their two vehicles.

A second Special Boat Service team dropped on the ground to help out.

The Sun has been given an exclusive account of the daring rescue — dubbed “a classic, textbook counter- terrorism operation”.

Politicians in Rome heaped glowing tributes on the Poole-based special forces for their heroics last night.

The 48-hour-long mission to recover the two soldiers — believed to be military intelligence officers — was launched on Saturday as soon as they were snatched alongside their Afghan interpreter.

It is thought they were betrayed by their local driver, who delivered the three-man team to a Taliban ambush near the town of Shindand, in the Iran border province of Herat.

Coalition spy chiefs used electronic intercepts to trace the captives to a remote compound in next-door Farah province.

The base was swiftly staked out by Italian special forces who parachuted into the area at night to avoid detection.

At dawn yesterday, the SBS team waiting with four Lynx helicopters was scrambled when the hostages were seen being driven out of the compound in two 4x4 jeeps.


The four Lynxs — top speed 210mph — carried a total of 20 commandos and swiftly caught up with the convoy.

They began to “buzz” the jeeps with low passes to force them to stop — but the gunmen refused, and opened up on the Lynxs with AK47s and machine gun fire.

Immediately returning rounds, two SBS snipers — armed with jumbo .5inch calibre rifles — then disabled the two speeding vehicles with pinpoint shots through their engine blocks. The marksmen moved on to take out the fighters individually as they ran to cover from the death-trap vehicles.

At the same time, two choppers landed nearby and dropped off 16 commandos who finished off the remaining members of the gang.

A medivac helicopter hovering high above the Lynx choppers then landed seconds later to evacuate the two Italians and interpreter, who had gone missing two days earlier.

They were all wounded — either in the original firefight when they were snatched or during the shootout.

One Italian soldier was critically ill in hospital last night suffering from a head wound. An Italian diplomat in Kabul said it was not clear who the abductors were.

Taliban insurgents, who have been behind a series of abductions, said they had not kidnapped the Italians.

But the militants are on the run and do not have regular contacts with their comrades.

NATO spokesman in Kabul Major Charles Anthony said the alliance had evidence showing the kidnappers were Taliban.

He added: “This successful operation is evidence of the International Security Assistance Force’s resolve to deal with acts of terrorism in Afghanistan. It was a very well executed rescue mission.”

As word of the extraordinary success spread in Rome last night, Italian senator Alfredo Mantovano added: “I would like to express my sincere thanks to the British troops who made a decisive contribution to the rescue of the two Italians.”

Italian PM Romano Prodi said the rescue represented “a bad defeat for the kidnappers and also a warning for the future. We never had a moment of uncertainty”.

The kidnap of Westerners in Afghanistan is a tactic used more and more by the Taliban. Western Afghan police chief Ali Khan Husseinzada said: “According to our intelligence information Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Hamid had taken the Italians.”

There was uproar a year ago when the Rome government allegedly paid a £1million ransom to free an Italian journalist snatched in Helmand province.

Like Army sister-service the SAS, the SBS practice for months until their hostage rescue drills are perfect.

The daring rescue follows a series of successes by the SBS in Afghanistan. Top of the list of fatal blows against the fanatical fighters was the assassination of the Taliban’s notorious military chief Mullah Dadullah in May after months of painstaking surveillance.

Their heroics have come at a price. In July, L/Cpl Michael Jones, 26, was killed and three comrades wounded in a raid to take out a senior Taliban leader in remote Nimruz province.

While the SAS largely carry out special forces’ operations in Iraq, the SBS — motto, By Strength and Guile — have been given Afghanistan as their exclusive territory.

One of its four sabre squadrons of 80 men is permanently based there, operating across the south. The 7,700 regular British troops there concentrate on opium-swamped Helmand. Last night it emerged the rescue had been carried out by C squadron. Most of the unit’s men were ex-Royal Marines.

In line with normal policy, the MoD refused to discuss the operation to protect the troops’ identities and tactics.
"If you are going through hell, keep going"

Winston Churchill


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Sep 19, 2007
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Last night it emerged the rescue had been carried out by C squadron. Most of the unit’s men were ex-Royal Marines.
I know the SBS is open to all services now, but I thought the guys in it who were RM's were still considered RM', not "ex" ones?


Jul 10, 2007
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Ulick said:

Last night it emerged the rescue had been carried out by C squadron. Most of the unit’s men were ex-Royal Marines.
I know the SBS is open to all services now, but I thought the guys in it who were RM's were still considered RM', not "ex" ones?

Correct. The extract is from The Sun, further elaboration uneccessary.

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