Recce Unit: The Making of a special force

Their training and tasks are not for the faint-hearted. [Standard]

With the dust finally settling on the 14 Riverside Drive attack which is being loosely referred to as dusitD2 terror attack, the special security forces that participated in the counter-strike deserve more than just a pat on their backs.

The well-coordinated and successful operation is indeed evidence that emergency security teams have learnt lessons from the Westgate and Garissa debacles.

Indeed, war and one that particularly involves terrorists is not for the faint-hearted and only special men can undertake. 

The Recce Squad

The Recce commandos not only faced the terrorist head-on, leaving them no chance, but strived to ensure all survivors were evacuated safely and as fast as possible. Most of the members had key information of where people were hiding and where the terrorists were. Therefore, the movements and actions were precise, knowing when to evacuate people and where to strike.

During the 2015 terror attack at Garissa University, it took them 30 minutes to neutralise the killers. Were it not for the transportation challenges from Nairobi, the number of casualties could have been lower. The squad arrived at the Campus 11 hours later.

During the Garissa terror incident 148 people, mostly students from the University, lost their lives while several others were wounded.

After arriving at Garissa, the Recce team was briefed on the situation for two hours after which they launched the assault on the terrorists and subdued them in half an hour.

This is despite the fact that all this time, the APs, and KDF were on the ground but could not contain the situation.

According to one senior Recce officer who spoke to the media at that time, “They thought the military and APs on the ground could handle the situation. We were considered an afterthought”.

However, the low success of anti-terror operations in Westgate terror incident was attributed to poor coordination between the different forces that participated in the operation.

There was no main commander or central reporting place as was witnessed during the Dusit terror drama. At Westgate, while the Recce Squad reported to one of their own, the KDF squad was led by a different person.

This consequently led to misunderstandings which led to the GSU officers being shot at and the operation taking longer than expected.

The Recce Squad is an elite paramilitary unity of the General Service Unit. After basic training in Embakasi, GSU recruits who show exemplary talent are taken for further training at the Magadi Field Training Camp, Solio Ranch and Ruiru College and then abroad in Israel, the USA, and the UK.

Special training includes anti-terrorism, security of critical installations, sky marshalling (the counter-terrorism unit for commercial flights), detonating and handling explosives and rescue operations. 

The KDF Special Forces

The Kenya Special Forces also played a significant role in DusitD2 rescue operations. Their exact number is obviously a secret but they are supposed to be the best of the best. Their motto, “Only for the special breed of men,” speaks a lot about their drive.

Despite being photogenic with their sunglasses as well as being noted with their sophisticated weapons, journalists are prohibited from publishing their photographs because of the sensitivity of the operations.

They can operate behind enemy lines and collect sensitive information and neutralise certain situations before the start of the operations.