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Ops 7. UK Special Forces Operations: Kenya

Britain’s Special Forces have been deployed operationally in at least 19 overseas countries in the past decade, new analysis reveals, raising questions over the degree of transparency and democratic consent these shadowy units operate under. The countries where there have been active operations are: Algeria, Estonia, France, Iran/Oman (Strait of Hormuz), Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mediterranean (Cyprus), Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.

This section outlines the extent of UKSF’s operations in Kenya.

2010 – context

November: Michael Adebolajo, killer of Lee Rigby, was reportedly snatched by a team from the 22nd Special Air Service (22 SAS) in a helicopter raid in November 2010. (Mail)

A contingent of SAS troops have/had been based in Kenya for some time, carrying out operations with Kenyan forces against the Al Shabaab militia, a terror group with ties to Al Qaeda, that operates from neighbouring Somalia.

Part of the SAS mission included targeting people as they attempted cross into Somalia from Kenya, in order to join Al Shabaab. It is believed that Adebolajo, a British citizen, had travelled to Kenya to do just that.

The Daily Mail reports that Adebolajo was captured at a remote location close to Lamu, Kenya, following a surveillance operation. He was put on a scheduled flight back to the UK and he was not escorted by an armed policeman – although a Scotland Yard detective, travelling undercover, is believed to have been on the flight.


September: SBS join forces in Kenya to hunt for British hostage, Judith Tebbutt, who was taken to Somalia. (Sun)


September, 23: The SAS was on the ground in Nairobi tonight helping the Kenyans in their final bid to free the Westgate hostages. A team of the crack soldiers was advising the local military as they stormed the shopping complex and were on standby to take part. (Telegraph)


May: UK special forces were behind a tip-off that led to holidaymakers being flown out of Kenya hours before a double bombing. SAS men have been based in northern Kenya for more than five years as part of a training agreement. (Star)


January: The Sun newspaper has now reported that the UKSF operative pictured was “a long serving member of the Regiment” who got involved when the Kenyan security forces he was training got ordered to intervene at the hotel. He was apparently the sole UKSF soldier on the scene. (Sun)

May: SAS units were ‘combing the ground for intelligence’ that could lead them to capture leaders of Al-Shabaab. (Express)