Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU)

Counter Terrorist Unit-CTU was a highly operational unit of the Serbian Police. Outstanding training and proven professionalism of its operators made this unit a strong security element of the Republic of Serbia in fighting terrorism and organized crime. By announcing the new Police Law (Serbian Service Courier, no. 6/2016) CTU was abolished.

FOUNDATION AND PURPOSE


Unit`s insignia

Counter Terrorist Unit was founded on May 7 2003, by the decision of then ministry of interior Dushan Mihajlovic, along with a suggestion of former commander of the Serbian Gendarmerie, general Goran Radosavljevic Guri, as an organizational unit within the Serbian Gendarmerie. Few weeks earlier, one of the most elite units in the former state, Unit for Special Operations, was abolished. Soon after there was a selection of police officers in order to fill the operational element of the new Counter Terrorist Unit, that included strict security and psychophysical checks. Operators of the former Unit for Special Operations who met the criteria entered the new CTU, and besides them, a significant part of the first generation of special forces operators of the new unit was filled with the most capable operators of the disbanded Special Anti-terrorist Unit of the city of Prishtina and operators of the specialized companies of the Serbian Gendarmerie.

Many consider they are the best.
WE ARE!
In this way, Counter Terrorist Unit from the very beginning gathered some of the best trained and most experienced operators in the country, which affected its status and purpose within the Gendarmerie, as well reputation among citizens. A broad combat experience, excellent group and individual moral, fit-out and readiness of its operators made the Counter Terrorist Unit the most elite unit of the Serbian Gendarmerie, intended for the most complex tasks and jobs. CTU was intended and equipped for conducting the most complex tactical-operational tasks, jobs and actions in fighting modern terrorism and organized crime, especially high-risk arrests, hostage situations by breaching into buildings or hijacked vehicles, close protection of VIPs and guarding infrastructure of special importance, as well as reinstitution of the public peace and order when disrupted in broader volume[2].

Although unit carried out given tasks flawlessly, it was often target of evil tongues, so in 2005 the unit gets completely new commanding staff and duties of the commander takes Police Major Goran Dragovic, who carried out duties until March 2015, when commanding duties received Police Major Milosh Maceshic, who was the last commander of the CTU.

A significant moment in CTU`s tradition was April 2007, when by the decision of the Serbian Government, along with a suggestion of former ministry of interior Dragan Jochic, the unit became an independent organizational element within the Police Directorate. Afterwards, its purpose was specified and working environment significantly improved.

From then, the unit directed its tactical-operational actions on:

-planning, organizing and conducting the most complex tasks in fighting national and international terrorism and organized crime
-monitoring, following, comparing and predicting actions and events that could be possible terrorist threats
-preventive anti-terrorist actions
-preventive and repressive actions to destroy terrorists and terrorist groups and breaking organized terrorist networks
-breaching into buildings and arresting armed persons or ones who resist actively
-hostage situations resolving by breaching into buildings or hijacked vehicles (especially airplanes, vessels and cars)
-close protection of VIPs and guarding important infrastructure in ordinary situations, as well as in those of higher risks of terrorist attacks
-providing professional assistance in training other organizational units of the MoI
-providing assistance and search and rescue actions during natural disasters and other accidents
-other activities within the police jurisdiction

During its existence Counter Terrorist Unit carried out all given tasks flawlessly, building a respectful status within the Serbian Police, but in region as well. From 2008 operators of the CTU were entrusted to protect the best Serbian tennis player, Novak Djokovic, who was a friend and a promoter of the unit, and from 2012 operators of the CTU carried out tasks and jobs of close protection of the present President of the state, Tomislav Nikolic. The unit was a bearer of number of medals from high state officials, which were confirmation of their professional devotion. On the occasion of the Statehood Day of the Republic of Serbia, Counter Terrorist Unit was decorated with a Golden Medal for Efforts in Areas of Defence and Security by the present President of the Republic of Serbia, February 2015.



The activation of the unit was completed by the “double-key” mechanism, which included agreement of two state officials to whom unit was responsible for taken activities: the proposition of the Director of police (or deputy) and approval of the minister of interior (or deputy).

The central base of the Counter Terrorist Unit was organized in Lipovica, on the Belgrade periphery. Within the base complex there were a closed garage for service vehicles, modern killing house for training, improvised climbing rock for practicing alpinism 12 meters high, modern gym, palaestra, exercising room, sports courts and other infrastructure necessary for functioning of a unit of this type.

ORGANIZATION

According to the last systematization, operational element of the Counter Terrorist Unit had around 150 operators in strength. The unit had its Command, consisted of the commander with three assistants, Instructor Team, psychologist and organized Group for Security and Legality, Group for Communications, Group for Operations, Group for Theoretical Lectures and Logistics Group. The division of duties and tasks was clearly set, so organizational elements operated very well end effectively. The Command was coordinating activities of operational teams, monitoring their work and results, organizing checks of combat readiness, in coordinance with instructor team, planning, organizing and conducting selection of candidates and training of operators. Planning and organizing tactical exercises, establishing cooperation with other units of similar type in the country and abroad. The Instructor Team was in charge for selection of the candidates, participating in evaluations about their status within the unit, planning and organizing theoretical and practical training of the operators and suggesting purchase of needed hear and armament. Psychologist was in charge to evaluate and define psychological profiles of the applied candidates, as well as to monitor work and behavior of the operators and organize, if needed, dialogs and consultations.

Operators and specialists were organized into four teams. The first two were designed to operate in the urban environment, while the third was specially trained and equipped to conduct special actions in rural areas. Due to a effectively designed plan and program of training, every team was capable to conduct actions in all environments and conditions, so if needed, to change roles or carry out joint activities, or provide assistance and support. The most elite was the first operational team, consisted of the most experienced operators specialized for conducting the most complex tasks and jobs within the unit`s purpose.

The place in this team took many effort and time to earn, by continuous professional development and achieving high annual evaluation marks during the training process as well as conducting actions. The fourth team of the CTU was specialized for VIP close protection and guarding infrastructure of special importance, as well for providing support to other teams. Operators of this team were in charge of guarding the central base of the unit. Within every team there were three intervention groups, while the fourth was always specialist (consisted of diving, climbing, IED and K9 specialists). The first three teams were enforced with sniping groups and medical staff, and within one of the teams a Group for Breaching into Drug and Bio Materia Labs was established.

INSIGNIA AND SLAVA OF THE UNIT

The insignia was presented in a shape of a shield in which was a mythical creature griffin in golden color and with a red shield with for ocilas, cross and a sword pointed downwards. This creature with a lion body, head of an eagle and wings of a dragon in Serbian tradition symbolizes a just and strong protector. It can be seen on frescoes at Serbian Dechani, Ravanica, Studenica and other monasteries. In the case of war, the insignia of the Counter Terrorist Unit would have changed: the sword held by griffin would have been pointed upwards.

Marking a slava is a part of Serbian culture and tradition. In the Ministry of Interior it is a common every unit to have and celebrate own slava. The slava of the Counter Terrorist Unit was Djurdjevdan (engl. Saint George) which honors the Saint George on every May 6. The saint is presented on icons as a soldier riding a horse killing a dragon with a spear. He is respected as a protector of cavalry, knights and knighthood, but as a protector of many states and cities as well. Counter Terrorist Unit celebrated its slava one day later, on May 7, when is also a Day of the unit. On that occasion operators wore parade uniforms, while in central base a celebration was usually organized attended by families of the operators, state and Church officials, friends and associates of the unit.

SELECTION AND TRAINING

In recent years it could have been noted the growing interests to enter not only CTU, but other units for special purpose as well. The decision about organizing selection for candidates was brought due to the needs of the unit and number of available workplaces, which was affirmed by the adopted systematizations. The admission was voluntary, and for selection could have applied active officers of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia with minimum three years of working experience as a police officer. It was favorable for candidates to come from the Gendarmerie or intervention police units.

The selection of candidates was organized in the base of the Counter Terrorist Unit and in training centers of the MiO in Kula, Village of Peter, at Goch Mountain and others, and led by instructors of the unit whose broad combat experience had outstanding significance in training of younger candidates and operators. The selection was divided into three phases.

Candidates who regularly submitted all needed papers and passed meticulous security checks were admitted to physical strength and stamina checks lasted for four days, organized as a rule in the central base in Lipovica. A part of this phase was filling out a special form and interviews with instructors, psychologist and commander, in order to learn psychological profile of a candidate and his motives to apply to a selection for workplace in the CTU. After successful completion of this phase, before deploying to drill, candidates underwent a detail specialized medical check after which doctors would evaluate if one meets the standards of general health and can be directed to further selection. The doctor`s decision was mandatory, so if negative, the candidate had to be returned into his unit.

The second phase was a classical drill with elements of tactical training, lasted for 45 days. Extremely stressful situations that candidates were facing intended to test their physical and psychological strength and endurance. The rest was at minimum, between practical tasks and checks, lectures were conducted.

The drill flow was defined by the Plan and Program of Training for CTU Operators and designed in a manner to continuously check the desire of a candidate to become a part of the Counter Terrorist Unit, because, as “Griffins” point out: “Insignia on a shoulder is not an obligation, it`s a privilege of the best".
In this period candidates studied basics of firearms and weaponry training, but according to the CTU standards, skills of tactical and precision shooting in all conditions, tactical movement and advancing, tactics of smaller combat formations, topography, basics of counter terrorist actions, work in a pair, group, team and the like.

Reactions of candidates and their individual and group results were monitored constantly and of great significance when considering their status in the unit.

After successful completion of the second phase, candidates were moved to operational teams of the Counter Terrorist Unit and continued with basic training. The basic training lasted for six months and was also of selective manner, which meant that, although deployed within the unit, candidates could have been returned to their units any moment.



Within the basic training candidates studied technical-tactical features and usage of the weapon the unit possessed, communication devices, service vehicles and other special gear. Within special physical training their physical readiness was improved, with a special attention to improving coordination and agility. Elements of practical fighting were practiced as well through techniques of box, kick box, karate, judo and aikido. Candidates also were learning and adopting the rules of behavior respected within the unit.

According to the special physical training instructor D.L: "Height and weight must not be limitation factors when performing activities. On contrary, must be used as advantages and improved to the one`s natural maximum".
In this phase, tasks were mostly carried out in group, and their nature demanded candidates to combine learned skills. Basics of guerilla and counter guerilla warfare were studied and practiced, as well as conduction of actions in cooperation with other teams and tactics of actions necessary for completing all tasks and jobs from the unit`s jurisdiction. Candidates also underwent a basic parachuting training. Climbing training included elements of the urban alpinism carried out in the central base of the unit, as well as in the Training Center in Kula. Diving training was organized on the Danube River, Zaovine Lake on Tara Mountain, as well as at Montenegrin seaside. Precision shooting courses at medium and long ranges were organized on suitable ranges in the country. Successful completion of basic training meant enrollment to the Counter Terrorist Unit and continuance of professional development. Professional improvement included every-day physical and tactical training and specialists courses organized in the country and abroad, needed to attain a rank of a specialist.

The results and work of the operator were monitored continuously and affected his annual evaluation mark that had an impact to his promotions within the unit. The annual evaluation mark would be, as a rule, proposed and reasoned by chiefs of groups and teams and concluded by instructors, the assistant for training and commander of the unit.

The base in Lipovica was equipped with a special killing house made of mobile wall panels. Due to a good construction, by changing panel positions various objects could have been simulated, that was of a big influence on tactical training of the assault groups and teams. The construction of the house was completely covered with video cameras and other sensors of different types. In addition, these rooms could have been completely darkened. During tactical training one could attach specific sensors made to measure changes in his body temperature, heart rhythm and similar, creating a pretty realistic impression on the level of stress he may face, and his reactions as well. The significance of this killing house to training was enormous, because on the one side it enabled creation of realistic environments, and on the other hand, it was possible to monitor the behavior of every operator, level of stress and eventual mistakes.

WEAPONRY AND GEAR

Precision rifle Sako TRG-42 in .338 Lapua Magnum caliber

Specificity of tasks and jobs resulting the special purpose of the Counter Terrorist Unit demanded modern and reliable gear and armament. Successful realization was an imperative for CTU operators, which meant tactics and techniques of a high level.

By intercessions of the Command and Serbian Ministry of Interior, Counter Terrorist Unit possessed excellent gear and significant arsenal of various categories. Along with the Special Anti-terrorist Unit, CTU was one of the best equipped units in the region. Despite the fact, the CTU`s Command meticulously monitored novelties in the world in area of specialist weaponry and tactical gear, organized new systems testing and considered procurements, because one of the rules in this job is “you cannot be good more than needed”.

Weaponry and gear of the Counter Terrorist Unit consisted of the most reliable national and foreign systems. As for the short recoil weaponry, CTU possessed semi-automatic handguns CZ 99 of the national producer Zastava Arms from the city of Kragujevac in 9x19 mm caliber, mostly used for the firearms training of the candidates from other police units, but according to strict standards of the CTU. As for the foreign models, used were Swiss SIG Sauer P 220, German Walther P 99, as well as Italian Beretta Px4 Storm, all in 9 mm Para caliber. The main secondary systems used by operators were semi-automatic handguns Glock 17 Gen 3 in 9x19 mm Parabellum. Construction of frames of these handguns enables mounting of tactical accessories such as tactical light or laser illuminator. Therefore, tactical lightst Streamlight TLR-1 and illuminators Beamshot were purchased. For the lowered carry reliable holsters BLACKHAWK! Serpa Tactical Level 2 and Level 3 were purchased, as well as models 5.11 Glock 17, and holsters MD were used as well, but not so extensively. Holsters for lowered carry are retained over the operator`s leg and mounted to belts, among which mostly used were tactical belts from the national producer Mile Dragic. For the needs of training using Austrian models purchased were special training conversions, blue slide with barrel and bolt, that were easy to mount on the handgun`s frame and were intended to fire training ammunition filled with color FX Simunition 9 mm, which enabled operators to shoot themselves during training, thus creating situations similar to real ones. The unit possessed several different revolver models from various producers used mostly for training purposes, not interventions.

In the submachine category, used were models Zastava M92 in 7.62x39 mm caliber, which can be marked as carbine weapon system by certain criteria. The main system used in this category in 9 mm caliber were German HK MP5 in models A2 and A3. The unit possessed suppressed models SD3 and compact ones HK MP5 K, all in 9x19 mm Parabellum caliber. Depending on the needs of operators, these models could have been modified by mounting additional accessories such as tactical light, laser illuminator, suppressor, assault handgrip (mostly purchased from Heckler & Koch and UTG manufacturers), or red dot sight. Also, German models were compatible with training conversions FX Simunition 9 mm.

As for the assault rifles category, used were systems of the national manufacturer Zastava M70 in models AB1 with fixed and AB2 with foldable buttstock, chambered for the eastern caliber 7.62x39 mm, as well as models Zastava M21 S, constructed for the needs of units of special purpose in 5.56 mm caliber. These rifles, constructed over the Kalashnikov system were used mostly for the needs of selection and training of candidates and new operators of the unit, and along with East German AK 47 had the practical usage when conducting actions in rural areas. East German AK 47 could have been modified to meet operator`s needs by mounting Zenitco front rails, assault handgrip and tactical light, and it was also possible to mount grenade launcher 40 mm, made over Russian systems. Assault groups of the CTU were equipped with US carbines Colt M4 A4 Commando in 5.56 mm NATO caliber, purchased over the Ministry of Interior during 2007. For the needs of CQB rifles could be modified by mounting red dot sights Aimpoint CompM3, ergonomic handgrip, tactical light and laser illuminator. Accessories of these kinds could have been mounted on standard Picatinny rails purchased for the needs of CTU from manufacturer Knight`s Armament. Besides Commando models, used were standard Colt M4 A4 as well as Colt M4 A1 CQB models in less numbers. Counter Terrorist Unit possessed a number of rifles SIG Sauer 516 in model CQB SBR, made over the US systems M4/M16, also chambered for 5.56x45 mm NATO. Some of the advantages of the Swiss models over US ones were greater compactness and improved operating system.

When conducting breach into a building and for room clearing used were combat shotguns such as Benelli M4, Franchi SPAS 12, and operators used as well models from Remington, Mossberg and Zastava Arms producers.



As for precision rifles CTU possessed rare Anthis system in a specific caliber 12.7x57 mm. The rifle with a bolt action system is marked as an extremely accurate and effective rifle up to 400 meters distances. In addition, integrated suppressor suppresses the sound of a shot in a manner so marksmen often say “the louder is bolt locking mechanics sound than shot itself”. Semi-automatic rifles HK G3 were also used, and suitable for destroying live force at medium distances. The unit also possessed quality US rifles Remington 700 in SPS Tactical models, with bolt action system, and in .308 Winchester caliber. As a crown in this armament category were Finish Sako TRG 42 with bolt action system, in .338 Lapua Magnum caliber. Following the newest standards in the area of armament, the Command of the Unit purchased a contingent of recently promoted[3] semi-automatic rifles SIG Sauer 716 Precision Marksman in 7.62x51 mm NATO caliber. For the needs of sniping specialists the rifles could have been modified by mounting optic sight Schmidt & Bender Police Marksman II, and adopting this system as a part of unit`s armament depended on the achieved results during robust testing[4]. For engaging long-distance, covered or light-armored targets used were anti-materiel rifles M93 Black Arrow with bolt action system of the national producer, chambered for 12.7x108 mm, as well as US semi-automatic anti-materiel rifles Barrett M82 A1 with optic sight Swarovski 10x42, chambered for 12.7x99 mm NATO (.50 BMG).

In the support weaponry category the unit possessed Belgian light machine gun FN Minimi in 5.56 mm NATO caliber, Zastava M84 chambered for 7.62x54 R mm as well as heavy machine gun Browning in 12.7x99 mm NATO. Machine guns if needed could have been mounted on specialized vehicles to provide support to advancing tactical teams or groups, and for similar purpose could have been used automatic grenade launchers Zastava M93 and mounting recoilless cannons.

Armament of the CTU
Head protection during interventions was provided using ballistic helmets of the national manufacturer Mile Dragic in series M05 (models S and P), constructed by MICH design and intended for special forces. Besides these models in black, the unit possessed also models from the M97 series (models S and P) of the PASGT (Engl. Personnel Armor System Ground Troops) design in grey-olive color, of the same producer. Helmets Protec, JOBE and Velocity were used for protecting head from mechanical shocks when conducting parachute or climbing training, or when carrying out actions or training on vessels. Ballistic vests were purchased from the national manufacturer Mile Dragic. Those were models Top Universal made in black. They provide a great level of mobility and ballistic protection acc. NIJ STD 0101.04 IIIA (III, III+ and IV with ballistic panels). Ballistic shields, equipped with lights and ballistic visors, and handgrips were also purchased from the same manufacturer.

Deeming Counter Terrorist Unit was capable to conduct purposed actions in all conditions, used were uniforms with various camouflage patterns, intended for urban and rural areas. Working, two-pieced were purchased in GOC[5] of the manufacturer Mile Dragic. As for tactical uniforms, operators used two-pieced black uniforms of the same producer in Tactical One cut, as well as black overalls GK Pro of the French producer for which circular tags were specially made. For the needs of actions in rural areas, operators used two-pieced uniforms Tactical One in rural digital camo pattern from the Mile Dragic producer. The same company for the needs of the unit made two-pieced uniforms in pattern similar to CCE camouflage and French Woodland. For urban actions besides mentioned black, operators used two-pieced uniforms Tactical One in digital urban pattern, also from the Mile Dragic producer.

As for the special gear, communication sets PELTOR should be mentioned, as well as radio-devices Motorola in several models, then observation and distance measuring devices Leica VECTOR and the like. The CTU`s capability to act in a short period of time in any area of the state`s territory, and if needed on multiple locations simultaneously (the confirming fact is a broad action of arresting suspects for customs frauds in which around 140 operators participated in 8 locations in the country), was enabled by excellent logistic support, within which special credits had reliably transport vehicles of the unit. The unit was recognizable by US Hammer vehicles that were taken after the Unit for Special Operations was abolished. Hammers used by CTU were specific because those actually were models for the civilian market, modified for service usage. They were characterized with extreme power (6500 CQ, with maximum road speed up to 140 kmph), and their reliability proved countless times in all field conditions. Besides Commanding Hammer used were one for towing, one for counter diversion actions, then supporting hammers and ones for personnel transporting equipped with armored turrets. Also, by need on the front of the vehicles steel roll bars could have been mounted for effectively overpassing road obstacles. As for jeeps, unit possessed models Land Rover Discovery 3, Chevrolet Suburban, and used were vans Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Peugeot Boxer, modified to meet the unit`s standards.

KNOWN ACTIONS

Operators of the CTU successfully completed all entrusted tasks during the operational period of the unit. Among numerous actions, by their complexity and level of risk emerge resolving hostage crisis in the area of Novi Sad when eight-member group kidnapped one person, destroying a terrorist camp in the mountains above the city of Novi Pazar in 2007, when a leader of the group, Mustafa Prentic, was neutralized. During the demonstrations in Belgrade in 2008, CTU was activated in order to restore jeopardized public order and peace, set perimeter in plateau of the US Embassy and evacuate personnel from the building. Although tasks of this kind were no longer a part of unit`s purpose, several dozens of operators led by then commander Dragovic successfully completed the high-risk task. Near the city of Despotovac in 2009 sniping specialists of the CTU were forced to, after negotiations dropped and due to a direct life threat to the hostage, to engage and neutralize the kidnapper who held members of one family in a building.

Very complex task was hostage crisis in which an armed kidnapper barricaded himself in a building along with a minor person[6] as a hostage. Operators of the assault team on that occasion were not allowed to use firearms in order to preserve the minor`s life, so during breaching their tactical shield took 13 assault rifle bullets fired by a kidnapper who was shortly after surpassed and detained and child and all operators were not harmed.

Operators of the CTU were activated numerous times to provide security at public and sports manifestations, foreign and national sports teams, and in cooperation with Interpol successfully completed several highly risked extraditions of individuals and groups suspected for organized crime and terrorism.

In the end of 2013 majority of personnel capacities of the CTU participated in broad police actions of taking down narco-groups “Thunder 1” and “Thunder 2”.

COOPERATION WITH OTHER UNITS

Cooperation with other units of similar purpose was an important element of the plan and program of training of CTU operators. Joint exercises and security seminars always are a great opportunity to check readiness and to exchange experiences. Therefore, the Command of the unit with the assistance of state ministries put significant effort to establish and strengthen relations of professional cooperation with other units.

In Serbia, CTU had a very good cooperation with all the police units, Special Brigade of the Serbian Army, as well as Military Police Battalion for Special Operations “Cobras”. Joint exercises and various competitions were common.

As for the units from region, excellent cooperation and friendly relations were established and maintained with the Special Police Unit of the Republic of Srpska and Special Support Unit SIPA, which is organized on the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Exchange of experiences and joint trainings were organized with the Special Police Unit of Montenegro, as well as with Special Anti-terrorist Unit of Montenegro. On occasions of international security seminars operators and instructors of the CTU often cooperated with colleagues from the ATU Luchko from Croatia and Macedonian “Tigers”.

A very good professional cooperation was established with Belarus and Russian units. In the second half of 2014 operators of the elite Russian unit Vityaz (Russ. Витязь) carried out joint training with Serbian colleagues in the area of close protection at CTU`s base in Lipovica and in the training center in Kula. Russian counter terrorist unit starting from September 2008 organized within 604th Center of Special Purpose of the Russian Ministry of Interior. Joint training was organized several times with the operators of the Belarus unit Almaz (belorus. Алмаз). Instructors from Israel were regular guests in the CTU`s base. In the West, unit established contacts with counter terrorist unit of the Austrian Federal Police GEK Cobra, and several times was organized a professional specialization with instructors from French RAID and GIGN.

[1] Specialized companies represent the counter terrorist element of the Serbian Gendarmerie. Today they are organized as specialized units of the Gendarmerie.
[2] Tasks of this kind were included in CTU`s purpose during the time it was organized as a unit within the Serbian Gendarmerie.
[3] The rifle was promoted for the first time January 2013.
[4] The rifle was purchased for testing amid 2014.
[5] Abbreviation for gray-olive color.
[6] According to the explanation of this expression, declared in the Criminal Law of the Republic of Serbia (Paragraph 112), to consider a person younger than 14 years of life.

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