On September 9, 2015, at Bar-Gat 5 Port, organized by the Command of the Montenegrin Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SAU) a complex international tactical exercise “SAU Teams Attacking Occupied Vessel” was carried out.


The detail from the multiple-direction coordinated attack on the vessel. : Dragan Božović

The organization of the joint security seminars gathering the elite units of the region is a successful practice for several consecutive years. This year, for the first time, the host country was Montenegro, specifically Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, the elite unit of the Police Department of the Montenegrin Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The importance of the joint activities at the regional level is exceptional, bearing in mind that present security threats do not recognize state borders, and that fighting organized crime and its most hazardous form — terrorism, requires intensification of cooperative relations through the continuous intel and experience sharing.

The tactical exercise has been directly carried out by 41 operators from 10 elite units from 7 countries of the Balkan Region, with 95 officers participating in total, including the operators of the Sector of Border Police, Boat Unit and Medical Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In addition, operators of the Naval Detachment and Aero-helicopter Unit of the Montenegrin Armed Forces, members of the Naval Security Agency, Port Unit and Naval Unit of the city of Bar have been participating as well. Serbian SF operators took part as well including: operators of the Diving-intervention Team of the Gendarmerie First Diving Center and Special Anti-Terrorist Unit operators. Operators from the Slovenian Special Police Unit (Slo. Specialna enota policije), Federal Unit of the B & H Ministry of Internal Affairs and SIPA Special Support Unit, operators from the Republika Srpska Special Police Unit, Macedonian Special Task Unit “Tiger” (Mac. Единица за специални задачи „Тигар“) and operators of the Croatian Special Police Command (Cro. Zapovjedništvo specijalne policije), all of whom have participated as well. The exercise`s organization and field execution was entrusted to the Montenegrin SAU`s officer, Marko K.

The primary objective of this exercise was to practice tactics in crisis on water surfaces, or immediate land area, specifically in the case of vessel occupation by a smaller armed criminal group. The fact that Montenegro has access to the sea at its Southern and South Western borders, it is important for the national security system to has well trained and equipped elements available, capable of responding to every forms of security threats in all conditions[1].

The scenario of the “SAU Teams Attacking Occupied Vessel” tactical exercise related to the Saint Stefan II ferry occupation, by a smaller criminal group, taking all the people on board hostages, and requesting 30 persons, illegally staying in the area of Sukobin border crossing, to be brought and embarked on the ferry which is to sail off undisturbedly.

Deeming the social danger of these criminal actions, the authorities made a decision to activate the Montenegrin SAU anti-terrorist groups[2] in order to raid the occupied vessel, arrest all the criminals and completely take control of the vessel.

The field intelligence concluded that the group has 6 members in strength, five of whom took positions at various points on and inside the ferry, with one of the kidnappers in the hijacked boat right next to the ferry, observing the surroundings. All the members of the group were armed.

Organized operational center, in charge of the crisis management, made a plan of raid on the vessel. The aggravating circumstances for the security forces included the good view of the environment, especially the water surface, which all the kidnappers had from the ferry construction, as well as the fact that the ferry`s ramp was lifted, after the kidnappers had taken it. Therefore, it was decided to conduct a coordinated attack from multiple directions deploying several SAU teams, in order to attain leverage over the kidnappers in the shortest time possible. The raid plan had been divided into several phases, and started by demolishing the ferry propeller with planted explosives, in order to prevent departure. The diving specialists had carried out the dive using the FROGS[3] autonomous diving apparatus with closed breathing circuit, manufactured by OPS Technologies, approached the propellers undetected, set the explosives and activated it without damaging the hull.

At the same time, the kidnapper scoping the environment from the boat next to the ferry was neutralized by the diver in the water, who had approached the guard quietly using the closed breathing circuit apparatus, emerged swiftly and pulled the guard into the water and neutralized him.

Sniping specialists armed with the HK PSG1 A1 7.62×51 mm NATO with Schmidt & Bender optics had been providing support and real-time intelligence to the security forces attacking the occupied vessel in distance. Also, the Gazela light helicopters of the Montenegrin Armed Forces had been performing circular maneuvers in the area of operation, in order to draw attention of the kidnappers, thus ease the advance of the attacking forces. The specialist with the Zastava M72 7.62×39 mm light machine gun, produced by the Serbian Zastava Arms company, aided in supporting the advancing forces. The construction of the machine gun is much alike the Zastava M70 automatic rifle series, in AB1 model and the same caliber.

With the successful execution of these attacking activities, an air insertion was conducted onto the top ferry construction, using the BELL 412 helicopter. With the skill of the pilot, the heli swiftly approached the construction top allowing the SF operators to easily disembark. The operators of this ATG were tasked to neutralize the kidnappers at the command bridge, take the bridge and thus attain the control of the entire vessel. For the needs of primary, reliable HK MP5 A2 9 mm submachine guns with fixed buttstocks were chosen, whilst the semi-auto Glock 17s in the same caliber as secondary.

Almost simultaneously, the two mixed groups approached the side of the ferry, using fast patrol boats, and carried out the assault at two spots: in the rear of the ferry, using a telescopic stick and ladders hooked onto the fence at the top construction of the vessel, and in the middle of the vessel, through pilot doors. SF operators of these groups were armed with semi-auto handguns, mostly the beforementioned Glock 17s of the third and fourth generation.


Mixed SF operators groups advancing. : Dragan Božović

The successful assaults onto the top ferry construction and the rear side, allowed the special forces operators to quickly attain the advantage over the kidnappers through the coordinated tactical movement, continuous communication and covering, taking the full control of the vessel. Following was the final phase of the attack: ramp lowering for the security forces to storm using vehicles. The breaching forces in vehicles were tasked to assist the neutralization of the kidnappers and together with the already positioned operators group hostages and organize their extraction for the identity check, or medical assistance if needed.

The “SAU Teams Attacking Occupied Vessel” tactical exercise has been carried out successfully in a short time span, confirming the high level of participants` training, their team work, as well as the thorough action planning and coordination between the crisis center staff and operators as the immediate subjects of the attack.

The execution of the exercise was attended by the Montenegrin Minister of Internal Affairs, Police Department Director and other policymakers, all of whom agreed that the demonstration had been successful and that the regional cooperation of this type is very significant, therefore should be intensified in the future.

With the completion of the exercise, in the presence of the Montenegrin SAU Commander Radosav Lješković, the participants were presented with plaques and certificates of appreciation.

[1] Amongst others, the provisions of the international law constitute the obligation of every sovereign country to guarantee the safety of people and goods flow throughout the state territory, including land areas, all water surfaces (all before the so-called international waters), as well as the airspace above the recognized territory.
[2] Consisted, during the tactical exercise, of the operators from the participating units.
[3] Full Range Oxygen Gas System.

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