March 19, 2012

SAS/SBS: Hostage Rescue Track Record

While controversy and many unanswered questions continue to surround this weeks failed hostage rescue mission by Britain’s SBS in Nigeria, it may be useful to take a look back at the over all track record that both the SBS and SAS have had with these types of missions.  A huge thanks to SOFREP reader Chris for compiling all of this information for us.

A mission that never actually took place to rescue Paul and Rachel Chandler from Somali pirates by the SBS in the Gulf of Aden due to ‘technical problems and security fears.’ Ransom was later paid (and they still weren’t released). Another ransom was paid and they finally were.
Sources: BBC and the Telegraph
The successful rescue of New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell from the Taliban in Afghanistan by the SBS & SAS (reportedly ‘SBS-led’). However, Farrell’s translator, Sultan Munadi, a woman, a child, and an SAS trooper were killed in the operation.
The rescue attempt of two Italian intelligence personnel in Afghanistan by the SBS and Italian commandos. Both hostages were injured in the operation. One suffered only minor injuries and was successfully rescued, while the other, Warrant Officer Lorenzo D’Auria, succumbed to the injuries he suffered some days later.
The successful rescue of two SAS troopers who had been arrested and subsequently detained/held hostage by corrupt police at Jamiat Police Station in Basra, Iraq. Delta reportedly offered to launch a rescue mission when British leadership dragged their feet. The SAS eventually conducted a mission, retrieving the operators who had been moved to a nearby building while other British troops assaulted Jamiat Police Station as a diversion.
Source: Daily Mail
The successful rescue of Norman Kember, James Loney, and Harmeet Singh Sooden by the SAS in Iraq. After a long campaign to track them down, the hostage takers were reportedly intentionally tipped off and basically told to get lost: “The dilemma was solved by a telephone call directly to the hostage-takers. The SAS were on their way to get them, they were told. ‘How about you disappear,’ it was suggested. ‘And we won’t come after you.’” Canada’s JTF-2 was also said to be involved (and perhaps other coalition units as well), but it was reportedly very much a SAS-led mission.
Source: Daily Mail
The successful rescue of 11 members of the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment and their Sierra Leone Army liaison officer in Sierra Leone by the SAS and SBS. You can add this one to the JSOC list as well, according to author Damian Lewis, who wrote a book on the mission (‘Operation Certain Death), and claims to have discovered since its publication that Delta played an active role in the mission as well. [Al Venter's book, "War Dog" is also highly recommended for background on this operation. -Jack]
And of course, the successful hostage rescue conducted by the SAS at the Iranian Embassy in one of the most famous special operation missions of all time. 24 hostages were rescued, one was killed prior to the assault, and one during the assault.
I think a look at all the track record of both UKSF and JSOC demonstrates that hostage rescue is always risky, even for ‘the best’.
However, critics of the failed SBS rescue attempt in Nigeria may need to be reminded of the following. Doing nothing can be even riskier, especially when you have the option of calling on ‘the best.’

About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • HugeFan

    Rockbond Clearly, you subscribe to the KISS philosophy. Thanks for posting that. It made perfect sense and wasn't a marathon read.  Thanks for serving too, even it was under the Union Jack! ;-)

  • Rockbond

    Bottom line is SAS are mostly made up of Para reg and their unique culture. The SBS mostly marines with there unique culture. They clash all the time. I have done both All arms courses in the 80s and found the Para course heavy on violence and live for the day because in battle we only expect to survive hours in a hostile DZ. Commando we land on a beach, prepare, stealth, survive as long as possible  But both of them you need to get your head around humping heavy bergans and yomping /tabbing mile after mile. Its a lot of head/attitude work and blisters a plenty...this generation are still as hard as ever, met a few at Airborne forces weekend, good lads..

  • Taskforcegreen

    Fist, SAS are bad men....but SBS are harder, bad motherf**king men inmho (just the few I've talked to on Skype with another journalist-type friend of mine).      Ok...I think I get it...k? I get it. J/K lol =)   not but seriously, its getting really old sometimes to beat the preverbial dead horse with the SAME groups that we see constantly doing the same mission templates. With souther border threats (no...no Ire boders, OUR borders lol) this threat, in my VERY HUMBLE OPINION (my measly 2 cents, i know) has had some major changes occurr on both sides.    The presence of highly skilled AQT-turned-Turkish car bomber (yes, this supposedly happened once and killed 20 people in a crowded airport with cops galore) who got into Turkey's main airport/s (as i recall, could be wrong...maybe w/how many whatever) are not uncommon, as you all can see in western European news like I've seen (but i'm from southern CA out by the beach near Coronade etc etc).  Plus, the Islamic Chinese tribes (which are a trip when you hear about stuff like this) that come into the OEF theater slowly but surely (with the Chechens etc)  and fight no different or less ferocious than the US SOF up there. (They found numerous of these guys in Takur Ghar and it's subsequent Wolverine raid....course, could be covers and i could be totally wrong....But still, pretty sure there were Uigor Chinese on the hill where the Rangers were on Ghar.      ------------------------()()---()()>>>>>>>>>>>     OK!      HERE, in my opinion, is what freaks me and mine the **holy hell out*** when we start getting deep into talking about it at dinner....Its hard 'cause it not quite unlike turning to that weird, Hawaiiin shirt wearing Phillipino from Basilan (Abu Gayyaff or whatever other groups etc) and expensive, stolen sunglasses and realizing, without a doubt, that you are looking at this right-under-your-greasy-phat-stupid nose is that you are looking at what is easily a terrorist (either on the way to his *big big day!**, or if he just in transit). I mean, I couldn't imagine the guys in the intel HUMINT side of the community who literally follow dudes like that into their huts, in an enclosed area sometimes even, and then the asses det it up and its all over.      Same in ALMOST all of South America, from I am hearing around here in some of the threads I saw here.

  • LauraWalkerKC

     @robgb Who is this "we" you refer to, and how many of ya are there?

  • robgb

    Bottom line is sites like this shouldnt exist, no offense but let the work we do remain classified....