The SAS: Prince Philip’s manager of terrorism
This article appears in the October 13, 1995 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
The SAS: Prince Philip’s manager of terrorism
by Joseph Brewda
On the eve of the first of six scheduled French nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific atoll of Mururoa in September, Greenpeace, an offshoot of Prince Philip’s World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), carried out a series of violent protests. A Greenpeace team somehow managed to penetrate the highly militarized nuclear test zone. French authorities revealed that the team was led by two highly trained retired professionals from the British Army’s Special Air Services (SAS), its elite paratrooper and commando arm. “They are people used to operations which have nothing to do with ecology,” commented the French Security Services commander on the scene.
The incident points to the fact that SAS is active in international terrorism today, and that the motives behind its deployment are different than those of its patsies. As this report will show, SAS deployment is a key component of the “afghansi.”
SAS has a special role derived from the fact that it operates outside the British government command structure, and is directly beholden to the Sovereign. Formed in 1941 by Lt. Col. David Stirling, it has always drawn on the highest levels of the Scottish oligarchical families for its officer corps. Stirling himself was from the Fraser family (the Lords Lovat), one of the oldest and wealthiest of the Scottish Highland families.
Closely associated with the royal family throughout his career, Stirling served as the “Goldstick” at Queen Elizabeth’s 1952 coronation. The Goldstick is the royal household official solemnly mandated with securing the Sovereign’s protection. Until his death in 1990, Stirling was a principal military adviser for Prince Philip’s World Wide Fund for Nature, the royal family’s most important private intelligence agency, and an organization bankrolled by his uncle, Lord Lovat, and his cousin, the Hongkong banker Henry Keswick. Together with its numerous private security company spinoffs, SAS is the military arm of the WWF.
SAS methods and procedures
According to the British Army handbook, the SAS is “particularly suited, trained, and equipped for counter-revolutionary operations,” with a specialization in “infiltration,” “sabotage,” “assassination,” as well as “liaison with, organization, training, and control of friendly guerrilla forces operating against the common enemy.” From its inception in World War II, Special Air Services was detailed to run sabotage behind enemy lines and to organize popular revolt, at first in North Africa, and then in the Balkans, where another Stirling cousin, Fitzroy Maclean, ran British operations.
At the end of the war, SAS was disbanded, but it was soon revived to crush the Malay insurgency in Malaysia, and the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya. The principle employed was to take over the insurgency from within, and use it to destroy the native population. In his 1960 book Gangs and Countergangs, Col. Frank Kitson boasted that the British were covertly leading several large-scale Mau Mau units, and that many, if not all Mau Mau units had been synthetically created by the colonial authorities. As a result of this practice, 22 whites were killed during the insurgency, as compared to 20,000 natives.
Based on this principle, SAS emphasized recruitment of natives, as it received increasing responsibilities for overseeing counterinsurgency within the postwar empire, as well as organizing insurgencies elsewhere. In New Zealand, 30% of SAS was drawn from the indigenous Maori tribes, later supplemented by Sarawak tribesmen from Indonesia. By the 1960s, New Zealand SAS was active throughout Southeast Asia, organizing tribal revolts against the Burmese government, and stirring similar movements in Northeast India. Similarly, SAS squadrons based in Rhodesia ran the 1960s tribal separatist insurgency in Zaire. They later recruited and deployed natives in terrorist raids in Mozambique and Zambia.
Today, there are three known SAS regiments, comprising 4,500 highly trained commandos in total. Training exercises for 15-man teams simulate terrorist assaults, in order, it is said, to “know the mind of the terrorist.” Such teams are often sent abroad, to train British Commonwealth and other military units in the techniques of terrorist assault, as well as the use of tribal auxiliaries in covert warfare. Through such means, SAS has built an extensive terrorist control capability, especially in its former colonies. Its soldiers currently serve officially in some 30 countries.
‘Private’ means ‘Her Majesty’s’
In order to facilitate its role as a disavowable arm of royal household covert operations, SAS has spun off a series of private security and mercenary recruitment firms led by its retired or reserve-status officers. Among these are Keenie Meenie Services, whose name is taken from the Swahili term for the motion of a snake in the grass. During its heyday in the 1980s, KMS shared offices with Saladin Security, another SAS firm, next door to the 22nd SAS Regimental HQ in London. The firms were run by Maj. David Walker, an SAS South American specialist; Maj. Andrew Nightingale of SAS Group Intelligence; and Detective Ray Tucker, a former Arab affairs specialist at Scotland Yard.
Others SAS firms include:
Kilo Alpha Services (KAS), run by former SAS Counter-Terrorism Warfare team leader Lt. Col. Ian Crooke;
Control Risks, run by former SAS squadron leader Maj. Arish Turtle; and
J. Donne Holdings, run by SAS counterespionage specialist H.M.P.D. Harclerode, whose firm later provided bodyguards and commando training for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
SAS operations under KMS label have been particularly important. In 1983, Lt. Col. Oliver North hired KMS to train the Afghan mujahideen, and simultaneously, to mine Managua harbor in Nicaragua, and to train the Nicaraguan Contras. At the same time, KMS was detailed to provide personal security for the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, a close associate of then Vice President George Bush, who helped supply tens of billions of Saudi dollars for “Iran-Contra” operations internationally.
KMS has a long history in the Arab and Muslim world. One of its first known assignments, back in the 1970s, was to aid Oman in repressing a revolt in its province of Dhofar. Oman remains a de facto British colony; its officer corps is dominated by British officers on secondment. KMS has also worked in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, all of which are de facto British colonies, and all of which include numerous former SAS officers in their security apparatus. The current security chief in Bahrain, Ian Henderson, for example, was an SAS officer in Kenya during the Mau Mau period. The Omani chief of security is a former SAS officer, as is the case in Dubai, where KMS official Fiona Fraser, another Stirling relative, resides.
These oil sheikhdoms are key hubs for British covert financial operations internationally. Dubai, for instance, is the center of the illegal flow of gold to Asia, while Kuwait has been a major bankroller of Afghan and Pakistan opium cultivation. The emirates’ gold trade, which is integral to the drugs-for-arms trade, is overseen by the British Bank of the Middle East, a Dubai-based subsidiary of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., a centuries-old leading financier of the opium trade dominated by Stirling’s cousins, the Keswicks. Abu Dhabi, similarly, was the headquarters of the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, the now-defunct narco-bank. BCCI, which was run by WWF activist and funder Hassan Abedi, was a major conduit for bankrolling the Afghan War.
The relations of these SAS firms with the Iran-Contra narcotics trafficking, emerged dramatically in August 1989, when reports surfaced in the British and Italian press that the Colombian Cali Cartel, historically most closely tied to the George Bush machine, had hired SAS veterans to assassinate Pablo Escobar of the rival Medellín Cartel. On Aug. 16, three days after the story broke, Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, a fierce opponent of the drug trade, was assassinated, some Colombian government sources say, by these British mercenaries. Among the individuals identified as working for the Cali Cartel were Col. Peter McAleese, a former SAS officer in Malaysia; Alex Lenox, a former member of the SAS Counter-Terrorism Warfare task force; and David Tomkins, a veteran of Afghanistan.
WWF’s ‘Operation Lock’
In 1988, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a co-founder of the WWF with Prince Philip, established a special hit squad within the WWF under the name of “Operation Lock,” officially charged with stopping the poaching of elephants and rhinos in South Africa’s national parks. Operation Lock hired Kilo Alpha Services (KAS), the private security firm led by Lt. Col. Ian Crooke. Crooke was a commander of the 23rd SAS Regiment, a part-time unit composed of reserve officers and soldiers frequently employed in SAS private security firms. His brother Alastair, the British vice consul in Pakistan, helped oversee the arming of the Afghan mujahideen.
Operation Lock is the secret behind the fratricidal warfare in South Africa between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha, which killed 10,000 people between 1990-95. KAS supervised the commando training of Zulu followers of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha, who were employed as game wardens and guards in several South African national parks. It also undertook the training of opposing Xhosa tribal followers of Nelson Mandela’s ANC, in different parks. Beginning in 1989, these commando teams began what has since been referred to as “third force” killings: the slaughter of ANC and the rival Zulu cadre in such a way as to implicate each other.
In August 1991, Zimbabwean Minister for National Security Sydney Sekerayami accused KAS of “being a cover for the destabilization of southern Africa.” In 1993, his government’s investigations determined that the 1992 Boipatong anti-Zulu massacre was carried out by the “Crowbar squad,” a Namibian anti-poaching unit created and trained by KAS.
Destabilizing Sri Lanka
In 1983, Sri Lankan President Julius Jayawardene asked the U.S. and British governments to help him suppress the insurrection led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, Tamil Tigers). The British government authorized KMS to train the Sri Lankan Army in counterinsurgency, and to lead Army units fighting the LTTE. For its part, the United States set up an “Israeli interests” section at its embassy in Sri Lanka, also charged with training the Sri Lankan Army. But simultaneously, KMS and the Israelis were secretly training the LTTE too, at training camps in Israel and elsewhere. The Sri Lankan civil war rapidly increased in intensity. In 1991, the LTTE was implicated in the murder of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
An article in the Western Mail in Wales at the time noted: “A band of mercenary soldiers recruited in South Wales is training a Tamil army to fight for a separate State in Sri Lanka. About 20 mercenaries were signed up after a meeting in Cardiff, and have spent the last two months in southern India preparing a secret army to fight the majority Sinhalas, in the cause of a separate Tamil State in Sri Lanka.” According to recent Indian press reports, the LTTE is now being equipped with Stinger missiles diverted from former Afghan mujahideen stocks.
Throughout the 1980s, SAS was on the ground in Pakistan as a lead agency training the Afghan mujahideen. SAS expertise in “sabotage,” and “liaison with, organization, training, and control of friendly guerrilla forces,” was, of course, much in demand when Islamic volunteers with plenty of fervor, but no military training, began arriving in Pakistan from all over the world. In camps throughout Pakistan, these youth and their Afghan refugee counterparts, were turned into commandos, and sent into Afghanistan to fight. In reality, the Afghan operation was always deployed against all nation-states in the region, not just the Soviet Union.
Oman was a particularly critical base of SAS operations into Afghanistan throughout the 1979-89 war. According to the recent unauthorized biography of Mark Thatcher, son of the former British prime minister, Oman’s extensive SAS community served as the principal British arms-shipping center for the mujahideen.
The sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, was installed on the throne in 1970, in an SAS-orchestrated coup that deposed his father. The head of the coup effort was Brig. J.T.W. (“Tim”) Landon, who had been an intimate of Qaboos since the 1950s, when both had attended the British military academy at Sandhurst. The newly installed sultan showed his gratitude to his old school chum by making Landon his equerry, special adviser, and chief military counsellor. Landon built up Oman’s military as one of the best-armed small forces in the world. The arms purchases were handled by another former British Army officer, David Bayley, who set up a purchasing office in the Omani capital of Muscat. Another active figure in the British military community in Oman was Lt. Col. Johnny Cooper, a founder of SAS.
Landon enjoyed intimate ties to both Mark Thatcher and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher throughout the 1980s, and this further facilitated Oman’s key role as a weapons conduit to the Afghan mujahideen. A look at a map of the Arabian Sea and the Indian subcontinent shows that Oman is a stone’s throw away from the Pakistani port of Karachi, the major weapons-importing point (and heroin-exporting point) for the Afghan rebels.
Ironically, another strong player in Oman during this period was one of the American CIA figures who most closely followed the British SAS model: Theodore G. Shackley. Shackley had directed the CIA’s “secret war in Laos” during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and had written a book, The Third Option, spelling out the SAS approach to training and controlling local insurgent armies as surrogates. Much of the Laos “secret war” had been financed by the sale of Golden Triangle opium. Shackley was a pivotal behind-the-scenes player in George Bush’s “secret parallel government” apparatus that ran the Afghan, Nicaraguan, Angolan, and other covert operations.
When Shackley left the CIA, he went on retainer with a shadowy Dutch oil trader named John Deuss, who developed a special relationship with Sultan Qaboos that was almost as tight as the Omani’s ties to Brigadier Landon.
Typical SAS uses of these afghansi include:
Punjab: In 1984, Sikh separatists assassinated Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, following a several-year bloody insurgency in Punjab. Many of the Sikh terrorist leaders had fought in Afghanistan. The Sikh terrorist groups active in Punjab, such as Babbar Khalsa, were trained abroad by SAS veterans in British Columbia, Canada, and Britain. Many of these Canadian Sikh leaders also oversaw western arms smuggling to Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan.
Kashmir: In May 1995, Kashmiri separatists occupying the Charare-e-Sharif mosque burnt it down, after a three-month Indian Army siege. “India should remember that the fire of Charare-e-Sharif will not be confined to Kashmir alone, but will burn Delhi and Bombay,” the leader of Harkat-ul-Ansar threatened following the incident. The group is composed and led by former Afghan mujahideen, and is an offshoot of the “Islamic fundamentalist” Jamiati Islami of Pakistan which received millions of dollars from the West during the Afghan War.
If Pakistan “continues to interfere in India’s internal affairs, we shall have no option but to accomplish the unfinished task of vacating Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” the Indian home minister threatened, claiming that Pakistan oversaw the incident. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto convened a special cabinet meeting to review Pakistan’s military preparedness in response, claiming Indian responsibility for the affair.
But there is another “third force” at work. The Kashmiri groups demand that Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, and not just Indian Kashmir, be “liberated,” to form an independent State. The creation of an independent Kashmir would fragment and destroy Pakistan, while massively eroding the strength of India.