Special Services Group

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This page is about the Pakistan Army's special forces, for the Pakistan Navy, see Special Service Group Navy and for the Pakistan Air Force, see Special Service Wing
Special Services Group (SSG)
SSG HI RES 2.png
Special Services Group Insignia
Active 23 March 1956—Present
Country  Pakistan
Allegiance  Pakistan Army
Branch  Pakistan Army
Type Special Operations Forces
Role Special Operations
Size 10 Battalions
Garrison/HQ Tarbela, Pakistan
Nickname SSG Commandos
Maroon Berets
Army SS Group
Black Storks[1]
Motto Mann Janbazam(men of heart)
Colours Identifications Maroon and Sky blue
        
Anniversaries Pakistan Day: March 23
Engagements Operation Gibraltar
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Siachen war
Indo-Pakistani War of 1999
Operation Silence
War in North-West Pakistan
United Nations Military missions
War in Afghanistan
Commanders
Current Commander Major-General Abid Rafique,
General Officer Commanding

The Special Services Group (SSG) is a special operations force of the Pakistan Army. It is quite similar to the U.S. Army's Special Forces and the British Army's SAS.

The SSG a Division sized group is headquartered at Tarbela,[2] is headed by a Major-General and divided into ten battalions, the actual strength of which are classified.[citation needed]

History[edit]

19 Baluch (SSG Pak)[edit]

SSG Pak was raised by amalgamating 17/10th Baloch (19 Baloch) and 312 Garrison Company. Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956. That year, 19 Baloch was selected[by whom?] for conversion to a special operation force. As a result of this, the SSG has inherited many of the traditions and insignia of the Baloch Regiment. The 19th Baloch Regiment's first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Aboobaker Osman Mitha[3] who commanded it for six years till 1961.[4] The first commander of its Alpha Company was Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Gaideen Khan Abdullai Mahsud. Their initial training and orientation as regards tactics was based on the US Special Forces pattern with whom they co-operated closely in the Cold War years.[3] The SSG initially had 6 companies and each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare.[3] The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964. In August 1965, scope of SSG was raised from a battalion size force to larger Special Operations outfit and instead of 19 Baloch (SSG) they simply adopted the name Special Service Group.[3] The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.[3] Later on, Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.[3]

Special Services Group Insignia outside SSG former Headquarters at Cherat

Indo-Pakistan War of 1965[edit]

The SSG guerrillas were initially deployed along the Afghan border to repel Afghan incursions into Pakistan, but their first major deployment came during the war of 1965. Around 120 officers and men were dropped on the night of 6/7 September near the Indian airbases of Adampur, Pathankot and Halwara. Due to the poor intelligence, inadequate preparations, difficult terrain, and poor visibility, none of the teams were able to regroup after the drops. Most of the men were either killed or captured by civilians and Indian armed forces, and only a few made it back to Pakistan. Captain Hazur Hasnain and a few jawans captured an Indian Army jeep and made it back via Fazilka.[3] The operation was a disaster. By 1971, the SSG had grown to 3 battalions with 1 permanently stationed in East Pakistan.

Indo-Pakistan War of 1971[edit]

The performance of the SSG in 1971 was much better, with 1 Commando Battalion making a single raid on an Indian artillery regiment, disabling several of their guns and inflicting casualties.[3]

SSG involvement in Soviet Afghan War[edit]

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, it is alleged, that the SSG was deployed disguised as Afghans and provided support to the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets, during which they suffered heavy casualties. Author Aukai Collins, in the book My Jihad, reports that Pakistani commandos engaged the Soviet Airborne Forces in a battle that took place in 1986 or 1987, when the Soviet Army had inserted about three thousand Spetsnaz-aided paratroopers in an attempt to advance all the way to the Pakistani border. About three hundred Pakistani commandos teamed up with five hundred mujaheddin and fought the Spetsnaz for twenty-seven days.[5]

During Operation Magistral, it is alleged that the SSG came into regular contact with Soviet forces. One of these incidents was the Battle for Hill 3234, where a company of Soviet paratroopers engaged a force of mujahideen believed to be SSG. The mujahideen wore black uniforms with rectangular black-yellow-red stripes.[6][7] It is claimed by at least two sources that the mujahideen were actually members of the Special Services Group.[8] According to the Soviet estimates, the mujahideen lost over 200 men.

Another battle reported as having been fought between the Pakistanis and Soviet troops, occurred in Kunar Province in March 1986. But the Russians claim that the battle was actually fought between the GRU 15th Spetsnaz Brigade, and the Asama Bin Zaid regiment of the Afghan mujahideen under Commander Assadullah, belonging to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's faction.[9]

Siachen and Kargil War[edit]

The SSG was also active on the eastern border with India and they have fought in Siachen. In the Kargil war SSG performed rather well in the initial stages, infiltrating relatively deep into Indian territory undetected as sheep herders. During the period of snowfall all the Indian posts were empty and they didn't have to face any repulsion, though later when Indian Army came to know about it resulted in a full-fledged war in which SSG suffered many casualties . In 1980, the SSG's Musa Company, which was originally formed in 1970 as a combat diver unit, was given the anti-terrorist operations role. Musa Company got the best founders in the beginning like Major Faiz Akbar Shah and Captain Sajjad Ali Shah. They were UDT/Seals qualified from class 79 of American Navy Seals. Captain Sajjad, who later retired as a Lieutenant Colonel was a salvage expert and had the intensive training of under water demolition. Musa Company was trained by British SAS advisers in mid-1981.[3]

Operation Scorched Earth Yemen[edit]

Pakistan deployed 300 Commandos of the elite SSG-Special Service Group in 2010 in order to aide Saudi Arabia and Yemen to defeat the Houthi rebels in Yemen who were mounting a violent insurgency against both countries, during the Operation Scorched Earth [10]

Recent activities[edit]

Recently, SSG has been active in anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan's restive western borders with Afghanistan and fighting Islamic extremists in Pakistani cities such as the Lal Masjid siege[11] in the operation of generals headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Navy's SSG(N) took part in the PNS mehran operation.

India believes that Pakistan's Baloch Regiment led the attack on the Line of Control in January 2013 and that troops from the Special Services Group killed the Indian soldiers and beheaded them.[12][13] India claimed that the Baloch Regiment's honor made them try and argue with SSG to not mutilate the bodies of the Indian soldiers but the SSG acted, ignoring the Baloch officer. Later in August 2013, a patrol of five Indian soldiers were killed 450 meters inside Indian territory, which India also believes was an action by SSG.[14][15]

On 6 December 2014 a special team of Pakistani Special Services Group and Light Commandos tracked down and killed the Global Operations Chief of al-Qaeda Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah along with five other al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's South Waziristan region during the counter terrorist operation Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He was the highest ranking al-Qaeda commander to be killed after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.[16]

Operations[edit]

Military operations[edit]

Counter terrorism operations[edit]

  • In September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by terrorists while it was refuelling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill passengers, SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed one hijacker and captured the rest.[citation needed]
  • In February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations led nowhere and it was decided to free the hostages by force. The Pakistani authorities had somehow managed to inform the children of the impending raid.[23] The SSG commandos used a secondary explosion as a distraction and entered the room at the Afghan embassy where the hostages were being held, killing the three hijackers.[citation needed] The operation lasted about 20 seconds.[24]
  • In May 1998, three members of the Baloch terrorists took over a PIA Fokker plane because they were angry at the government for conducting nuclear tests in Baluchistan. As negotiations dragged, SSG commandos rushed the plane and apprehended all 3 hijackers. None of the passengers were harmed during the assault.
  • In July 2007, the SSG was the main assault force which re-took the Lal Masjid from extremists. The SSG suffered 11 killed and 33 wounded.[25] On September 13, 2007 a suicide bomber killed at least 20 personnel of the SSG and injured dozens others at the officers mess of the sensitive cantonment area of Tarbela-Ghazi.[26] The blast has reported to been a vendetta attack by the Islamic fundamentalists who were attacked in the Red Masjid siege in July.[27] According to reliable sources a civilian wearing a white cap with a long beard walked with his bicycle towards the SSG mess and blew himself up there.[28]
  • On 30 March 2009, SSG successfully participated in thwarting the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks.[29][30]
  • On 10 October 2009, militants attacked the Pakistan Military Headquarters, taking hostage 42 civil and military officials. SSG commandos rescued 39 hostages and killed 9 militants, capturing one. The militants have been linked to Ilyas Kashmiri being a leading Al Qaeda commander operating alongside Tehrik-e-Taliban. A total of six SSG commandos and three hostages were killed in the operation. As reported by ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) [2]. The operation was undertaken by SSG's Counter Terrorism Force.[31] Three more SSG commandos, injured during the operation, died in the hospital on October 12.[32]
  • On 16 December 2014, SSG Commandos from the Zarrar Company were tasked with clearing an Army Public School which was raided by seven [33] Tahreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Terrorists in Peshawar. All Terrorists were eliminated and the school was cleared. Around 141 people, mostly Students aged between 12-16 were killed by the Terrorists.The school had a total strength of 1000 approx. and due to SSG timely arrival they were able to rescue 940 aprox. people.[citation needed][34]

Organization[edit]

Pakistani special forces have 7 battalions:[citation needed]

Each battalion consists of 700 men in four companies, with each company split into platoons and then into 10-man teams. Battalions are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels.

Plus three independent commando companies:

  • Musa Company - Specializes in Amphibious Operations
  • Zarrar Company - Specializes in Counter-terrorism

Training[edit]

SSG officers must have at least five years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for two-year assignments with the SSG; non-commissioned officers and enlisted men volunteer from other formations to serve permanently in the SSG. All trainees must participate in a nine-month SSG course at Cherat. The SSG course emphasizes physical conditioning, including a 36-mile march in 12 hours and a five-mile run in 20 minutes with full gear.[citation needed] Following the SSG course, trainees must go through the airborne training to get their commando wings from the SSG Airborne School. The course lasts four weeks, with wings awarded after five day-jumps and three night-jumps. The SSG recruits get trained in hand-to-hand combat training and very hard physical fitness training; only about 25% of recruits make it through to the Pakistan SSG due to the very tough training course.[citation needed]

Many in the SSG school are selected for additional specialist training. A HALO[citation needed] course is given at Peshawar with a "Skydiver" tab awarded after 25 freefall jumps. A "Mountain Warfare" qualification badge is given after completing a course at the Mountain Warfare School in Abbottabad. A "Combat Diver" badge is awarded for the course held by the Naval Special Services Group SSGN at Karachi. (Three classes of combat swimmers are recognized: 1st class to those completing an 18-mile swim, 2nd class to those finishing a 15-mile swim, and 3rd class for a 10-mile swim.) Due to the Siachen crisis, a Snow and High Altitude Warfare School was established in the Northern Areas after splitting off from the Army School of Physical Training and Mountain Warfare in Abottabad.

SSG regularly sends students to the US for additional training.

Interaction with other elite units[edit]

SSG conducts regular (bi-annual) exercises with the Turkish Special Forces which have been designated as the "Ataturk" series. The first of these exercises was held in December 1998. The Turkish force included 21 officers and 14 non-commissioned officers. The second exercise of this series was held in November 2000, while Atatürk-III concluded in September 2002.[citation needed]

During the 1980s and then into the 1990s, SSG held many similar training exercises with US Special Forces called "Inspired Venture". These exercises were usually held during the early months of January and February with approximately 150 US troops. The exercises were focused on weapon familiarization and use, mountain-warfare along with tactics, raids and ambushes, and eventually airborne operations.[citation needed]

The SSG also conducts exercises with Chinese special forces. In 2006, China and Pakistan conducted an eight-day exercise called the Pakistan-China Joint Exercise Friendship-2006.[35]

SSG has also been reported to train with the Jordanian Royal Special Forces and Iranian Quds Force and conducts training for special forces of other Middle Eastern countries at Cherat.

Deployment[edit]

Components of the battalions are constantly rotated between Cherat, Attock, Tarbela and any other hot spots (such as Pakistan-India border or when Pakistani forces are deployed overseas as part of the UN peace keeping operations) in order to provide experience to the operators. The SSG are used to provide security to various vital points such as the strategic nuclear facilities in Pakistan. It is thought[by whom?] that a number of SSG operators are stationed in Saudi Arabia for the protection of the Saudi royal family. Many SSG officers and other ranks are routinely seconded to the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for clandestine and reconnaissance missions.[citation needed] SSG has planted some of their operatives under command of ISI within various civilian government and private institutions for various security purposes. The details of the operatives are highly classified. Most of the operatives of this "covert" division are planted in educational institutes..[citation needed]

Notable members[edit]

  • Brigadier Tariq Mehmood (Brigadier TM) was a legendary soldier and commander of SSG. Brigadier TM was one of the most decorated soldiers in Pakistan with 2 Sitara-e-Jurat (Bar), Sitar-e-Basalat and Hilal-e-Shujaat (posthumous). TM died on 29 May 1989, when his parachute did not open. One of the training exercises in Pakistan Military Academy is named after him (TM Raiders) and two crossroads (chowks) are named after him; one in Gujranwala, where he died and one in Rawalpindi outside the General Headquarters of Pakistan Army.[36]
  • Colonel Abu Taher from Bangladesh Army(was an officer of former Pakistan Army) joined the elite Special Service Group (Commando Force) in 1965. He was one of the first Bengali Commandos who joined in SSG. Following his training, he participated in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 in the Kashmir sector and the Sialkot sector. For his part, he received a gallantry award from the Government of Pakistan. After the war, Taher took advanced training on Guerrilla Warfare at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning in the United States in 1969. He was posted to the Quetta Staff College, Pakistan in 1970.He is considered as one of the best and most dangerous commandos in the history of SSG.[37]
  • Major General Ameer Faisal Alavi (28 March 1954 – 19 November 2008) was a Pakistan Army 2 star general and special operations expert who was the first General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the elite Special Service Group of Pakistan Army. A former member of Special Service Group, he was credited with masterminding the Angoor Ada operation in 2004, where many Arabs and Chechens based in the tribal areas were killed or arrested and turned over to the Americans. On 19 November 2008, while driving to work in his car in Islamabad, he was shot dead by three unknown gunmen. It was alleged that Ilyas Kashmiri, the chief of Jammu & Kashmir chapter of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, was behind the murder of Maj-Gen Alavi at the behest of the Taliban in North Waziristan.
  • Lt General Muhammad Afzal Janjua Hi(M),SJ.SbT Commanding Shaheen company during 1971 war received SJ for gallantry performance during operation in Bangladesh,The first SJ of Shaheen Company

Appearance and equipment[edit]

Uniforms[edit]

The commandos are distinguished by their insignia of maroon berets, a common color for airborne troops, with a silver metal tab on a light blue felt square with a dagger and lightning bolts, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of the SSG is similar to the US woodland pattern camouflage coat and pants. Other uniforms include camouflage and black dungarees (for the CT team).

SSGN (SSG Navy) is distinguished by a dark blue beret with three versions of the "fouled anchor" navy badge for officers, NCOs and enlisted men. A metal SSGN qualification badge featuring a vertical dagger superimposed over a midget submarine is worn over the left pocket on dress uniforms. Parachute wings are worn over the right pocket.

The SSW (Special Service Wing) is distinguished by maroon berets with PAF Officer, JCO or Airmen insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of SSW is olive drab camouflage. They also wear their special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .

Equipment[edit]

The SSG is equipped with an array of modern weaponry which includes, Steyr AUG, SIG 552 LR, HK G3, and Chinese Type-81/56 rifles, Colt M4 carbines, and FN P90[38] and HK-MP5 Submachine guns (many different variants). Light machine gun in use is Rheinmetall MG3 (locally produced along with HK G3s and MP5s). In sniper or Marksman role, the SSG CT (Counter-Terrorism) teams are equipped with Barrett M82, Finnish Tikka bolt-action rifles, Steyr SSG 69, POF Eye Corner shot gun and HK PSG1 and Dragunov SVD Semi-automatic rifles. Pistols include various Heckler & Koch & Glock models.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top Ten Special Operations Forces in the World". Armed Forces Museum. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Army to preserve its own dignity and institutional pride: COAS". Dawn. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Singh Bajwa, Mandeep. "Pakistan Special Service Group". Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  4. ^ A.H. Amin "Interview with Brig (retd) Shamim Yasin Manto" Defence Journal, February 2002
  5. ^ Aukai Collins., My Jihad: One American's Journey Through the World of Usama Bin Laden--as a Covert Operative for the American Government. ISBN 0-7434-7059-1.
  6. ^ "Клятва тридцати девяти". A. Oliynik. Krasnaya Zvezda, October 29, 1988. (Russian)
  7. ^ "Афганистан: бой у высоты 3234". D. Meshchaninov. (Russian)
  8. ^ My Jihad: One American's Journey Through the World of Usama Bin Laden--as a Covert Operative for the American Government. Aukai Collins. ISBN 0-7434-7059-1; Carey Schofield, 'The Russian Elite,' Greenhill/Stackpole, 1993, p.121. ISBN 1-85367-155-X.
  9. ^ Lester W. Grau & Ali Ahmed Jalali, Forbidden Cross-Border Vendetta: Spetsnaz Strike into Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, December 2005, p.1-2 Referenced copy was obtained via the Foreign Military Studies Office website
  10. ^ http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/117182.html
  11. ^ Witte, Griff (2010-08-22). "Mosque siege ends, and grim cleanup begins". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  12. ^ Joseph, Josy (10 January 2013). "Pak cross-LoC raid: Brutality similar to 2000 strike by Ilyas Kashmiri". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Second beheading in two years by Pakistan". 10 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Rajat Pandit (8 August 2013). "Pakistan's special commando force behind LoC attack". Times of India. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Kashmir: Five Indian soldiers killed in shooting". BBC. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  16. ^ http://defence.pk/threads/al-qaedas-global-operations-chief-adnan-al-shukri-has-been-killed-by-pakistani-forces.347286/
  17. ^ Kashmiris didn’t back Pakistan in 1965: Gohar
  18. ^ [1][dead link]
  19. ^ Book Review Tarikh ke Aine Main By Lt. Col. (retd) Ghulam Dawn
  20. ^ Secret U.S. Unit Trains Commandos in Pakistan, Eric Schmit and Jane Perlez, New York Times, 22 February 2009
  21. ^ CIA Pakistan Campaign is Working Director Say, Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, New York Times, 26 February 2009, A15
  22. ^ Gerstein, Josh. "Panetta warns against politicization". NBC New York. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  23. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1994/02/21/world/afghan-gunmen-hijack-a-school-bus-in-pakistan.html
  24. ^ "Islamabad reviews Afghan refugee policy after hijack". News Straits Times (Islamabad). 21 February 1994. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  25. ^ Witte, Griff (2007-07-12). "Pakistani Forces Kill Last Holdouts in Red Masjid". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  26. ^ Dead belonged to company deployed at Lal Masjid, Jamia Hafsa’ By Javed Iqbal & Mushtaq Yusufzai The News, Pakistan September 14, 2007
  27. ^ Bomb in Pakistan Kills at Least 15 From Elite Unit By SALMAN MASOOD and ISMAIL KHAN September 14, 2007
  28. ^ Blast case registered -DAWN - Top Stories; September 16, 2007
  29. ^ Faisal Ali, Mohammad (2009-03-30). "13 killed, 100 injured as forces recapture Manawan academy". Dawn TV. Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  30. ^ Nawaz, Hamid (2009-03-30). "Lahore under attack again: 12 dead, 90 injured in bloody siege at police academy, three gunmen captured". Aaj TV. Retrieved 2009-03-31. [dead link]
  31. ^ "Pakistan commandos rescue 39 hostages, three killed". Reuters. 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  32. ^ "Senior officers were main target of GHQ attack". The News. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2009-10-13. [dead link]
  33. ^ https://twitter.com/AsimBajwaISPR/status/547433407781679104
  34. ^ http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/16/world/asia/pakistan-peshawar-school-attack/
  35. ^ "Joint Anti-terror Military Exercise Concludes". Xinhua News Agency. 
  36. ^ "Brig. TM (shaheed) of Special Services Group". Paklinks.com. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  37. ^ Biography at Banglapedia at the Wayback Machine (archived January 10, 2008)
  38. ^ "The Special Services Group". Haider, Shahnam. 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 

Recommended reading[edit]

  • Unlikely Beginnings by General A. O. Mitha. Oxford University Press Pakistan. (Founder of Cherat)
  • SSG Tarikh ke Aine Main (SSG history) by Lt Col (Retd) Ghulam Jilani Khan, published by Headquarters SSG, Cherat, 2004. (Urdu)

Sources and external links[edit]