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Tactical Exercise "Teams of the SAU Attacking Occupied Vessel"

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Posted in columns: Diving Photo: D. Bozovic

On the 9th of September 2015 in the Port Bar-Gat 5 a complex international joint exercise entitled “Teams of the SAU Attacking Occupied Vessel” was organized by the Command of the Montenegrin Special Anti-terrorist Unit.

Organization of joint security seminars that gather elite units from the region is a successful practice for several years in a row. This year, for the first time, the host country was the Republic of Montenegro, in concrete, Special Anti-terrorist Unit, the elite unit of the Directorate of Police of the Ministry of Interior of the Montenegro. .

The importance of joint activities at the regional level is exceptional, having in mind that today`s security threats do not know nor admit state borders so it is necessary to intensify cooperation through constant information exchange and experiences within fight against organized crime and its most dangerous modality-terrorism.
Tactical exercise was executed by 41 operators from 10 elite units of 7 states of Balkan, and in the exercise participated totally 95 officers, including ones from the Sector of Border Police (Serb. Sektor granične policije), Boat Unit and Medical Center of the MoI. Also, participants were operators of the Naval Detachment and Aero-helicopter Unit of the Army of Montenegro, then operators of the Agency for Naval Security, Port Unit (Serb. Lučka kapetanija), and Naval Unit of the city of Bar. The exercise gathered special forces from the Republic of Serbia: operators of the Intervention Team of the First Diving Center of the Serbian Gendarmerie, as well as operators of the Special Anti-terrorist Unit-SAU. Participants also came from the Special Police Unit (Slov. Specialna enota policije-SEP) from the Republic of Slovenia, then operators of the Fedaral Unit of the Ministry of Interior of B&H, as well as of the Special Support Unit-SSU SIPA B&H, operators of the Special Police Unit-SPU of the Republic of Srpska, operators of the Unit for Special Tasks “Tiger” (Mac. Единица за специални задачи „Тигар“) of the Macedonia, as well as operators of the Special Police Command (Cro. Zapovjedništvo specijalne policije) from Croatia. Organization and immediate execution of the exercise was entrusted to the officer of the Montenegrin SAU, Marko K.

The mail goal of this tactical exercise related to improving tactical procedures in crisis situations on water surfaces, or at areas close to water, in concrete, in the case of occupying vessel by smaller armed criminal group. The fact that the Republic of Montenegro with its southern and south-western border has an access to the sea is of great importance for the national security system which must have well-trained and equipped elements that are capable to respond to all kinds of security challenges in these conditions[1].

The scenario of the tactical exercise “Tactical Exercise "Teams of the SAU Attacking Occupied Vessel” referred to occupying the ferry Saint Stefan II by a smaller criminal group, who took all present persons as hostages and afterward requested that 30 persons, who were illegally located in the area of border crossing Sukobin, come to them, embark on the ferry which must be allowed to set sail.

Having in mind the social danger of such criminal activities authorities made a decision to activate anti-terrorist groups[2] of the Montenegrin SAU in order to conduct a raid to the occupied vessel, arrest all criminals and take full control of the vessel.

Through field work it was discovered that the group consists of six members, five of whom are located at various points inside the ferry, and one of them is located on the hijacked boat right next to the ferry and observe the near area. All kidnappers are armed.

Formed operational headquarters in charge for managing the action of resolving the crisis develops a plan of attack on the vessel. The aggravating circumstances for the security forces related to the good views of near environment, particularly the water surface, that all kidnappers have from the construction of the ferry, as well as to the fact that ferry`s ramp was lifted up after its occupation by the criminals. Therefore, it was decided to conduct a coordinated raid from several directions by activating several teams of the SAU, in order to achieve advantage over the kidnappers as soon as possible. The plan of attack was divided into several phases, and began with destroying the propellers of the ferry by placing and activating explosives, in order to prevent ferry`s departure. Diving specialists using autonomous diving apparatus-ADA with closed circuit of breathing FROGS[3] of the OPS Technologies manufacturer conducted a dive, approached unnoticeably to the propellers, planted explosives and activate it without damaging ferry`s hull.

The neutralization of the kidnapper who observed the near area from a hijacked boat besides the ferry. Photo: D. Bozovic

At the same time, a kidnapper who observed the surroundings from a boat near the ferry was neutralized by a diver from the water who, using the ADA approached silently to the kidnapper, quickly emerged, pulled him into the water and dismantled for further actions. Security forces that realized the raid to the occupied vessel were supported and informed from a distance by sniping specialists who were equipped with semi-automatic long-range precision rifles HK PSG1 A1 in 7.62x51 mm NATO with optic sight of the manufacturer Schmidt & Bender. Also, in the area above the ferry circular maneuvers of the heli Gazela of the Army of Montenegro were performed to draw attention of the kidnappers and thus facilitate the approach of the assault forces. From the heli a specialist armed with light machine gun Zastava M 72 in 7.62x39 mm of the Serbian manufacturer Zastava Arms provided support to the ATGs. The construction of the M72 is largely similar to the serie of assault rifles Zastava M 70, particularly model AB1 in the same caliber of the same producer. After successful realization of these activities of the attack, an insertion by helicopter was executed on the top part of the ferry`s construction, using the helicopter BELL 412. Thanks to the skills of the pilot heli quickly approached to the ferry construction and allowed operators to easily jump out. Operators of this ATG had a task to neutralize kidnappers at command bridge, take over the bridge and gain full control of the entire vessel respectively. For primary, operators chose reliable submachine guns HK MP5 A2 with fixed stock in 9x19 mm Parabellum/Luger, while semi-automatic handguns Glock 17 were carried as secondary, in the same caliber.

Coordinated attack on vessel from different directions. Photo: D. Bozovic

Almost simultaneously, two mixed groups using fast patrol boats approached to the side of the ferry and conducted assault at two points: in the rear part of the ferry using telescopic rod and ladders that operators attached to the ferry fence at the top of the construction and breach into the middle part through pilot`s doors. Weaponry of these special forces operators consisted of semi-automatic handguns, mostly of previously mentioned Glock 17 of the third and fourth generation.

Simultaneous assaults in the middle and rear part of the ferry. Photo: D. Bozovic

Successfully conducted raids at the top of the ferry and its side, enabled operators, through coordinated movement, continuous communication and mutual coverage, to quickly gain the advantage over the kidnappers and regain the vessel. Thus began the final phase of the attack: lowering the ferry`s ramp to enable security forces to storm the ferry using vehicles. These assault groups had a task to assist in neutralization of the kidnappers and along with already positioned operators assemble hostages and organize their extraction out of the ferry for identity checks, or medical treatment if needed.

Tactical exercise “Teams of the SAU Attacking Occupied Vessel” was realized in a short period of time, which is confirmation of high level of training of each participant and their team work as well, and of detailed and proper planning of action, and coordination between HQ members and operators who directly carried out the attack.

Exercise execution was attended by Minister of Interior of the Republic of Montenegro, director of the Direction of Police and other state officials, who agreed that demonstration was successful and that regional cooperation of this kind is very significant, and it should be intensified in the future.

Line-up of the operators of participating units after successfully completed exercise. Photo: D. Bozovic

Upon completion of the exercise, in the presence of the Commander of the Montenegrin SAU, Radoslav Ljeskovic, participants of the exercise were presented with plaques and certificates of appreciation.

[1] Among other things, by International Law there is a established obligation for every sovereign state to guarantee the safety of the movement of people and goods throughout its national territory, that refers to the land, all water surfaces as well as airspace above the territory.
[2] Composed, within this tactical exercise, of special forces operators of the units who participated in exercise.
[3] Full Range Oxygen Gas System.

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