SAS on Top Secret Mission
The SAS were engaged in a top-secret mission in Macedonia weeks prior to the arrival of hundreds of British soldiers. Two small teams of around 20 SAS officers prepared corridors or ‘route recces’ that NATO forces have been using to travel in the area. Arms’ dumps escape routes and information and intelligence on all the key individuals associated with the conflict were also gathered,
Patrols have identified likely ambush points and areas where the British forces could be halted as they attempt to acquire firearms from ethnic Albanian fighters who have been warring with Macedonian regulars. The undercover teams have been assisted by soldiers from 264 (Signals) Squadron, who are providing communications for the SAS.
Working alongside local linguists, the SAS have made contact with local Albanian groups and confirmed that they have established “good relations” prior to NATO’s operation. Two senior SAS officers flew to NATO headquarters in Brussels to keep commanders briefed on its operation.
The SAS confirmed that their patrols are still ‘tiptoeing’ around. One source said: “It is a very complicated situation and the last thing we want is for some of the locals to start turning nasty and then holding people hostage.
“They are doing what they do best, watching, waiting and keeping out of sight. The role is primarily reconnaissance – mapping safe routes for the multinational force to get to predetermined operating bases. They have mapped out the likely ambush points and have briefed commanders.”
The SAS are continuing to work inside Macedonia alongside another elite unit, the Pathfinder Platoon of 16 Air Assault Brigade.