STEP Task Force in action

STEP Task Force in action

Over 200 schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram to be sex slaves and bush wives

Over 200 schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram to be sex slaves and bush wives

Boko Haram share Daesh's (ISIL) flare for publicity

Boko Haram share Daesh’s (ISIL) flare for publicity

There appears to be a new phantom force at work in Africa.
A deadly new mercenary company, comprising old-timers from South Africa’s border battles during the Cold War, has apparently given the radical Muslim terrorists of Boko Haram a bloody nose in recent covert missions.

Operating in the desert wastelands of northern Nigeria, Boko Haram hit the world headlines big time when it kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014.

Despite some assistance to find the girls from the British and American military, there were no good results to help the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan win his looming national election.

He faced much criticism and his own dispirited Nigerian army appeared to have little competence, and even less appetite, for a scrap with the Boko Haram bandits, whose reign of terror had run unopposed for some six years.

In desperation, Goodluck turned to a South African outfit with the catchy acronym of STEP (actually STTEP for Specialised Tasks, Training Equipment & Protection). There is a subtle but important difference between ‘mercenaries’ and ‘contract soldiers’. STEP appear to be the latter, paid by a legitimate government to train and assist for the greater good, as opposed to mercenaries will kill their own grandmothers for the coins on their eyes. That’s the theory.

STEP is headed by a Colonel Eeben Barlow, 62, a former South African Defence Force commander who runs a group of bush warfare experts that cut their teeth in the border wars of 30 years ago.

Barlow was formerly a co-founder of Executive Outcomes, which in 1995 helped the government of Sierra Leone to defend itself successfully against the limb-chopping Revolutionary United Front.

In January of this year, Col. Barlow recruited a task force in top secret to assist the Nigerian government and hit the Boko Haram where it hurt. He found an aging ‘Dad’s Army’ of former South African soldiers who still retained that country’s continuing wild frontier spirit.

They comprised a force of some hundred men, including ex-members of apartheid-era SA security forces and former elite black troops from both South African and opposing communist guerrilla units. Their steady confidence and experience under fire paid off.

This rainbow band of brothers, backed with its own small helicopter fleet, hit the Boko Haram terrorists hard, causing them to flee and freeing hundreds of captured women being held as sex slaves and bush wives. The campaign was relentless in its momentum, says Barlow, which was designed to push Boko Haram onto its back foot.

‘It was not uncommon for us to be met by thousands of cheering locals once the enemy had been driven out.’

The secret of STEP’s success was its policy of ‘relentless pursuit’ (a similar principle to NATO Special Forces’ Black Ops in Iraq), which mirrored Boko Haram’s own non-stop hit-and-run tactics.

Once the terrorist fighters were on the run, STEP forces would be helicoptered ahead to cut off all escape routes.

Expert bush trackers were used (see Terence Strong’s thriller ROGUE ELEMENT for further understanding of these specialist techniques) to learn about the enemy, where the fighters were heading, and the location of their secret camps.

STEP’s helicopter unit was notified of ‘kill blocks’ to the fore and flanks of its advancing ground strike force. The whole operation also assisted the regular Nigerian army with intelligence gathering, troop transportation and casualty evacuation.

Although it has been claimed that Boko Haram has virtually been wiped out in the relentless three month campaign, it is unclear whether or not it will be able to regroup and whether Nigeria’s new President, ex-general Muhammadu Buhari, will continue STEP’s contract.

Others have suggested that outfits like STEP could be appropriately and effectively used against Daesh (ISIL) on the Syrian/Iraqi borders or in Libya.

Never say never.


New Russian T-14 MBT

New Russian T-14 MBT

For over the past 10 years Vladimir Putin – as both Prime Minister and President of Russia – has overseen a huge modernisation and upgrading of its armed forces, including submarines and aircraft.
The latest is the new T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT), proposed variants of which were shown off at the recent Victory Day Parade in Moscow.
Some think that main battle tanks (MBTs) are no longer king of the battlefield. That attack helicopters and infantry-fired missiles now reign supreme. But the truth is the technology balance swings almost each decade one way or the other – or seems to have done during my lifetime and before.
Apparently this new Russian beast sports a 125mm smoothbore cannon and remote-controlled 7.62mm machine gun, active mine counter-measures and a suite of camera offering 360-degrees vision. It travels at up to 50mph, firing on the hoof.
The crew of three live in a protected armoured pod in the front, presumably hence the need for remote HMG and cameras.
It has been suggested in some defence quarters that the Russians may actually be able to deliver in the T-14 a tank that is of greater speed, manoeuvrability, firepower and survivability than anything comparable in NATO armies.
Mock-up of new Leopard ptoyotype

Mock-up of new Leopard ptoyotype

France and Germany have responded by announcing that they are to co-operate in developing a successor to the highly-regarded, but aging German-made Leopard 2 MBT. This is scheduled to be replaced by 2030. However, it looks as though the Russian Armata will be battle-ready a long time before that.

[Any tankies (or anti-tankies) out there want to post on this? Terence Strong]


SAS 4-CGRAPHIC-170-IS-C The “Head Shed” at 22 Special Air Service Regiment has been straining at the leash for some time to have a serious crack at the Da-esh, the barbaric religious cult that pretentiously calls itself “Islamic State”.

Ever since the chemical weapons threat was at its height in Syria, SAS planners have made contingencies for various missions that were eventually to be vetoed Cabinet level due to the high risks involved.

Nevertheless the “Head Shed” has continued to press for a more proactive rather than reactive rôle against the Islamic terrorist force.

Following the so-called Tunisian “beach massacre” last week, it appears that British Prime Minister David Cameron has sanctioned the formation of a dedicated SAS task force of between 60 and 100 members (probably one Sabre Squadron plus full support elements) to target Da-esh operations across Syria, Iraq and north Africa. They would operate in conjunction with US Navy Seal teams and Delta Force commandoes.

The new task force will be run from joint forces HQ in London’s Northwood which will co-ordinate SAS troops’ specialist “target evaluation” techniques and their provision of co-ordinates for Reaper drone attacks against the Da-esh forces and its leadership in particular.

MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service) is running a considerable network of agents within various jihadist movements and will be able to supply the SAS operations with considerable and precise target intelligence.


GRAPHIC-170-IS-C What’s in a name?

Quite a lot, actually. Ask any brand manager. Like the one who famously decided that you’re “never alone” with a Strand cigarette actually left you utterly alone and possibly suicidal beside the Thames. Or the Pinto car that suggested all of its South American drivers had a small penis.

The Kharij (or Khawarij) was an extreme Islamic sect that emerged shortly after the Prophet Muhammad’s death during the Battle of Siffin in the 7th century, near the Syrian-Iraqi border.

That battle was waged between the forces of the fourth caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib and the Muslim governor of Syria.

The sect initially supported Ali’s camp but denounced leaders of both sides for even agreeing to arbitration to end the hostilities. It believed that any form of negotiation was tantamount to tolerating aberrations of the faith as they interpreted it.

Several thousand Kharij broke away and settled around Kufa in Iraq. Ali ibn Abi Talib sent a representative to persuade them to return to the fold. A few did but the majority insisted that their interpretation of the Koran was the only true and correct one.

In their view, any Muslim who did not agree with them was deemed a heretic who could be put to the sword without mercy.

The Kharij itself has dwindled into obscurity today, but many have pointed out that its radical heritage has been adopted and refashioned by the modern day Islamic State, as it has the pretension to call itself.

Now of late, the British Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that the UK media should refrain from calling this movement by its chosen name, and instead refer to it as DA-ESH which is a loose Arabic acronym of al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham (Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant).

The selection of the term Da-esh was first selected by the Arabic and Iranian media,
which was hostile to the general extreme jihadist movement , because it excluded both terms Islamic and State.

Therefore the term is roundly loathed by that extreme religious sect in itself, in the same way that members of the German National Socialist Party during World War Two hated the Nationalsozialismus acronym of Nazis. Especially the way that Winston Churchill pronounced it.

I find that I rarely agree with any major decisions that David Cameron makes, but in pure international PR (interpreted here as ‘communications with the masses) terms, he has a point.

He and others claim that Da-esh is not “Islamic”. Well, unfortunately it is. It is not the modern, secular and sane Islam accepted in Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan, for example, and what the West generally would consider to be ‘civilised society’.

But it is a primitive, medieval and unforgiving religious culture that was once similarly seen within Christian history, when anyone who didn’t agree with the Church’s own narrow view of God (or Allah) was for the chop.

Neither is Da-esh a “State” – in any way, shape or form. It’s a bunch of murderous brigands who have hi-jacked a religion for control and power (and ultimately wealth) over others, namely its brain-washed, poorly educated minions, most of whom cannot even read the Qu’ran, let alone begin to understand it.

It expands naturally into any geographical or political area where a failed state leaves a vacuum that needs to be filled. It’s not God or Allah but the natural order of things. There is no legitimacy, only coercion by terror.

So, for once, let’s follow Cameron’s lead and refer in the media throughout the world to that bunch of murderous, inhumane terrorists as the sick religious cult that it actually is, the Da-esh.