The recent Special Forces operation to eliminate Osama Bin Laden was an example of a military exercise planned to precision that was successful. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes these missions can go very wrong. If the objective is the rescue of hostages, the consequences can be disastrous but joyful if successful. Here are 7 Special Forces Operations of varying success.
1. Operation Jaque – Columbia July 2008
This was a successful Special Forces exercise to rescue a group of military contractors, Colombian security services and a former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, being held by the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (Farc). Using a theatrical staging of posing as senior Farc leaders, the hostage takers were easily fooled, disarmed and captured. All hostages were safely freed.
2. Moscow Theatre Siege - October, 2002
During the Russia/Chechnya conflict, armed militants from Chechnya took control of a Russian Theatre in October 2002. They demanded withdrawal of Russian military forces from their country otherwise they would start killing the 800 odd hostages they had taken. Russian Special Forces stormed the building and killed 40 of the hostage takers but unfortunately 129 hostages were killed by the anesthetic gas the rescuers had used.
3. Operation Chavin De Huantar - Peru, April 1997
In April 1997, 14 armed men from the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) stormed a party at the Japanese Embassy in Peru taking 70 people hostage. The hostages included President Alberto Fujimori's mother and younger brother, and his eventual successor as president, Alejandro Toledo. Peruvian commandos attacked the building surprising some of the militants during one of their regular afternoon football games. All the hostages except one were rescued. Two commandos, one hostage, and all fourteen of the rebels died.
4. Operation Thunderbolt - Uganda, July 1976
Operation Thunderbolt (also known as Operation Entebbe), was a Special Forces operation carried out by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976.
On 27 June, an Air France passenger airplane with 248 passengers was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and flown to Entebbe in Uganda. Shortly after landing, all non-Jewish passengers were released. Israel dispatched 100 elite commandos into Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation lasted 90 minutes and 103 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed. A fourth hostage was murdered by Ugandan army officers at a nearby hospital.
5. The Battle of Mogadishu - Somalia, October 1993
In October 1993 a large force of US Special Forces set out from their compound on the outskirts of Mogadishu to seize leading lieutenants of warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed.
They eventually got their men after a huge urban gunfight, but first had to battle through extremely difficult odds. This incident was made in to a film, Black Hawk Down. Altogether, nineteen US servicemen were killed and a further 73 injured. Among UN forces, one Malaysian soldier died and seven Malaysians and two Pakistanis were wounded. The bodies of several US casualties were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.
6. Operation Nimrod (Iranian Embassy Siege) - London, May 1980
The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 was an occupation of the building by Iranian Arab separatists including 26 hostages. This particular incident brought Special Forces operations to the world's attention as the whole episode was captured by the media at the time.
Five hostages were released a few days into the siege, but on the sixth day of the siege the hostage-takers killed a diplomat and threw his body out on to the street. This prompted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to go ahead with an assault and rescue. The British Special Forces, Special Air Service (SAS) used stun grenades to disorientate the gunmen and five of the six militants were killed. Nineteen of the 20 remaining hostages were rescued, while one was shot dead by the hostage-takers during the SAS assault.
7. Operation Eagle Claw - Iran, April 1980
Operation Eagle Claw was an American military operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter in an attempt to put an end to the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 Americans held captive at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on 24 April 1980. The plan was for the rescue to take place using US Special Forces, 8 helicopters and two remote desert locations. From the start, things went wrong. Problems with logistics, climatic conditions, helicopter crashes involving deaths of the rescuing servicemen all conspired to make the mission a failure. On January 20, 1981, only minutes after Carter's term in office ended, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released, ending the 444-day Iran hostage crisis.
As you can see, there is quite a variety of circumstances for which Special Forces can be brought into play. These are just some of the ones we know about. There are undoubtedly, thousands of covert operations undertaken by military forces all over the world we never hear a word of. I actually do wonder what criteria are applied to release news about Special Forces Operations compared to keeping it secret. To be honest - I’m not sure I want to know – do you?
Top Photo Credit: world_armies