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French Special Forces Praised By Former SAS


Former members of the Special Air Service (SAS) have been praising the recent counter terrorist operations by French special forces.

Last Friday, special forces with the National Gendarmerie and French National Police brought 2 sieges to an end.

In one incident, the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) neutralized 2 terrorists who had been holed up in an industrial park in Dammartin-en-GoŽle, after being on the run following the shootings at the Paris office of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

In the other incident, the Recherche Assistance Intervention Dissuasion (RAID) , a police unit, rescued hostages from a Kosher supermarket in Paris and killing the gunman involved.

In both cases, the special forces units were forced to react to events in an ad hoc manner. At Dammartin, the 2 terrorists came out shooting and were taken out after a brief gun battle with the GIGN. Because the terrorist at the Kosher supermarket - who had killed 4 people when he initially entered the premises - had threatened to more hostages if the other terrorists were killed, RAID were forced to intervene as quickly as possible.

This is typically the worst case scenario for counter terrorism (CT) operatives. When a CT unit such as the SAS arrives on scene, it formulates a so-called 'immediate action' plan. This plan will be enacted if some event, such as terrorists opening fire on the hostages, happens soon after the CT team arrives. The rescue force must then go in without much time to prepare, which increases the dangers to both themselves and the hostages.

If there is time, the CT team will draw up a plan for a deliberate assault. This is the preferred option as it allows time to properly prepare. Vital intelligence can be gathered through extensive observation of the stronghold (e.g. the supermarket) and the terrorists and hostages inside. Detailed plans of the stronghold can be acquired and alternative entry points may be discovered e.g. can operatives come through a sky-light or blow a hole through from an adjacent building? The famous SAS intervention at the Iranian Embassy, Operation Nimrod, is a classic example of a deliberate assault.

The French units did not the luxury of preparing a deliberate assault plan. In almost simultaneous operations, the 2 units, from different arms of the French services, showed a high degree of skill and elan in resolving both scenarios without further loss of civilian life.

Speaking to The Mirror, former SAS soldier and member of the infamous Bravo Two Zero patrol, Chris Ryan, said:

"The French special forces are among the best in the world. I would put them on par with the SAS...

...I worked with the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group in the 80s and early 90s when I was on the counter-terrorism team and they were superb operators."

In the Telegraph, former SAS Officer Tim Collins says:

"In the world of counter-terrorism and special forces, it must be said that the French carried out an amazing feat on Friday. They deserve the grateful thanks of their nation and the admiration of the international community.

What we witnessed was two simultaneous "immediate actions". These are the hardest to pull off, and the French forces managed the equivalent of two drop-goals in rugby under great pressure."

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