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UKSF Rescue Bid For UK IS Hostage Being Considered

03.09.2014

The British government is considering a British Special Forces rescue of a UK man held by IS terrorists, it has been reported.

The man, who the UK press are not naming in respect of his family's wishes, appeared in a video released yesterday that showed the killing of US journalist, Steven Sotloff, along with a warning that the British hostage would "be next".

Foreign secretary Phillip Hammond has been quoted as saying, "We will look at every possible option to protect this person.' This statement has led to speculation that a Special Forces rescue is being considered.

While it is likely that such a mission is being explored, any rescue attempt would require a high quality of intelligence to back it up.

Speaking to The Times, a "former SAS commander" said that if British Special Forces knew the British hostage's location then a rescue mission would likely go ahead. "If they had really good intelligence now they would rescue him. They clearly do not know where he is or else they would have picked him up," he said. [1]

IS captors are likely to keep moving their hostages around in order to thwart attempts to rescue them. A British Special Forces rescue team would have to have very up-to-date intelligence in order to act. A previous rescue attempt by US special operations forces (SOF) failed to find the hostages. A helicopter-borne raid at a location in Syria resulted in US SOF withdrawing under fire after finding no sign of any hostages.

Hostage rescue missions are inherently dangerous affairs for both the hostages and rescue teams. Recent operations by United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) have had mixed results.

  • 2009 - Kunduz, Afghanistan - an SBS operation to rescue a British reporter and his interpreter from a Taliban compound succeeded in freeing the journalist but at the cost of the lives of a Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) paratrooper and the interpreter.

  • 2012 - Sokoto, Nigeria - a British and an Italian man held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists were both killed during a failed UKSF rescue attempt.

  • 2012 - Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan - a joint US-UK mission succeeded in rescuing 4 aid workers being held captive by a criminal gang.

As reported last week, a concerted intelligence operation is under way in Iraq and Syria. US and UK SOF and intelligence operatives are on the ground, gathering intelligence, while specialist aircraft monitor radio signals (SIGINT). This effort, it is hoped, may produce intelligence that enables a rescue operation to be launched.

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