AOAV: all our reportsMilitarism examinedUK Special ForcesUK Special Forces Global Operations

Ops 15. UK Special Forces Operations: Somalia

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 Somalia.


2011, 8 weeks around May-June: SBS conducted covert surveillance around Somali coastline and at a number of ports subject to piracy. (Sun)


February: UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve declared that a proposed plan to launch commando raids and Apache gunship attack missions from HMS Ocean against pirates and al-Shabab forces in Somalia would be legal under international law (2,3). This plan was apparently put on the back burner. (Sun)

March: Up to 60 SAS soldiers were working with Kenyan forces to target al-Qaeda forces in Somalia and to secure Kenya’s border. The British unit included two four- strong teams of Forward Air Controllers (FAC). They work by gathering intelligence on al-Shabeb targets inside Somalian territory. Once a target is pinpointed, its position is fed back to fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters or drones. A missile can then be fired on the target using a laser as a guide.

Chairman of the Commons counter terrorism sub-committee Patrick Mercer claimed that ‘there have been a series of incursions into Somalia by British troops’, further adding that “Our Special Forces wield a considerable amount of power in the region. There is no doubt we are involved in the war against al-Shabaab.” (Star)


October: Al-Shabaab militants claimed that British and Turkish special forces had carried out a raid on a coastal town which killed a rebel fighter, but that a British officer had also been killed and others wounded. An MOD spokesman claimed, ‘we are not aware of any British involvement in this at all’. (ReutersTelegraph)


April: It was reported that the SAS had a 10-strong team in Somalia which was involved in “regular skirmishes” with al-Shabaab and was also training Somali soldiers. ‘The Who Dares Wins unit is based in a remote camp north of the capital Mogadishu. It has been working with US Delta Force directing air strikes against the insurgents by American jets based in Djibouti’. (Star)

May: The British government said that it had 27 military personnel in Somalia who were involved in training mission to counter al-Shabaab. (Question for MOD)


February: A report on US special operations in Kenya’s Boni National Reserve, right on the border with Somalia claimed that UKSF had provided intelligence for the operations. (Daily Beast)