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Spetsgruppa A
Alpha antiterror group emblem.png
Active Since July 28, 1974
Country Soviet Union
Russian Federation
Type Counter-terrorism

The Alpha (Alfa) Group (also known as Spetsgruppa A) is an elite dedicated counter-terrorism unit that belongs to OSNAZ (special-purpose forces) of the FSB (former KGB), or more specifically the "A" Directorate of the FSB Special Operations Center (TsSN).

Contents

Function

Alfa Group's primary function is believed to be to carry out urban counter-terrorist missions under the direct sanction and control of the Russian political leadership. However, little is publicly known and other plausible missions would include a variety of paramilitary, policing and/or covert operations, similar to the missions of its secretive pennant, the "V" Group (Vympel).

Training and equipment

Alfa Group has access to state of the art small arms and equipment. They have employed chemical agents in hostage rescue operations (see Moscow hostage crisis chemical agent) and are capable of functioning in an NBC environment. Little further information is publicly available. It is assumed that Alpha is equipped with sniper and counter-sniper capability, tactical emergency medical services, demolitions, tactical intelligence and other functions typical of both police special teams and the special operations community. It is unknown whether they have dedicated hostage negotiators.

History

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Soviet Union

"Alfa Group" or Group A, a special forces (spetsnaz) or special operations detachment OSNAZ unit attached to the KGB was created on 28 July 1974 within the First Chief Directorate of the KGB on the orders of Yuri Andropov, then Chairman of the KGB. It was intended for counter-terrorism operations to give the KGB the capacity to respond to such incidents as the 1972 Munich massacre on its own territory. However, from the beginning, its assigned missions far exceeded its formal scope.[1] The Group was tasked with liberating hijacked airliners within the Soviet Union, such as Aeroflot Flight 6833 as well as making sensitive arrests such as that of CIA spy Adolf Tolkachev.

Their most notable mission during the Soviet period was the attack on the Amin's palace in Afghanistan on 27 December 1979, the special operation which began the Soviet-Afghan War. According to many Russian sources of information (including the memoirs of the Alfa and other special units' officers that took part in the seizure), the operation was called "Storm-333". The operation involved storming a high hill under extremely heavy fire and lots of intense close combat resulting in the death of the Afghan president, Hafizullah Amin, and his approximately 200 elite guards. In the operation Alfa group (called Thunder at the time) lost only two men while the other Soviet forces lost 19. Other governmental buildings such as the Ministry of Interior building, the Internal Security (KHAD) building and the Darul Aman Palace were also seized during the operation, which Alfa group's veterans called the most successful in the group's history. The unit served extensively in the following Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as well.

In October 1985, Alfa was dispatched to Beirut, Lebanon, when four Soviet diplomats had been taken hostage by militant Sunni Muslims. By the time Alfa was onsite, one of the hostages had already been killed. The perpetrators and their relatives were identified by supporting KGB operatives, and the latter were taken hostage. Following the standard policy of 'no negotiation', Alfa proceeded to sever some of their hostages' body parts and sent them to the perpetrators with a warning that more would follow if the Russian hostages were not released immediately. The tactic was a success and no other Russian national was taken hostage in the Middle East for the next 20 years,[2] until the 2006 abduction of Russian diplomats in Iraq.

On March 11, 1990, the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR announced its secession from the Soviet Union and intention to restore an independent Republic of Lithuania. As a result of these declarations, on January 9, 1991, the Soviet Union sent in a small team of Spetsnaz Grupp Alfa to quash the uprising. This culminated in the January 13 attack on the State Radio and Television Building and the Vilnius TV Tower, killing at least fourteen civilians and seriously injuring 700 more. One KGB operative was also killed. When the media questioned why a KGB officer was in Lithuania the Soviet Union denied all knowledge.These events are known as January Events.

During the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 the Alfa group (under the command of Major General Viktor Karpukhin) was assigned the task of entering the White House, Russia's parliament building, and killing Boris Yeltsin and the other Russian leaders following a planned assault on the entrance by paratroopers. This order was unanimously refused.[3] Unit members mingled through the crowds and assessed the possibility of undertaking such an operation. According to their statements in the following months, it could have been carried out with success, and achieved its main objectives within 20 to 25 minutes, but would have resulted in hundreds if not thousands of civilian deaths.

Russian Federation

According to some Russian military sources, the unit was "degraded" and demoralized by the political manipulation it suffered in the political battles surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the KGB seeking to use it in the hardline 1991 plot against Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Russian president Boris Yeltsin also using it as an instrument of power when attacking the Russian White House during the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis.[4] Following the 1993 crisis, Alfa and Vympel were briefly transferred to the MVD (Interior Ministry).[5]

The unit continued to exist after the collapse of the Soviet Union and has been used in a variety of crisis situations such as their highly controversial actions ending the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002 (called by the Alfa men "our first successful operation for years"[6]) and the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004 in which the group suffered its highest official losses in history. The unit also served well in Chechnya for enemy camp raiding.

See also

Notes

References

  • Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (1999). The sword and the shield: the Mitrokhin archive and the secret history of the KGB. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00310-9.  , pages 389-391
  • Barry Davies, (2005). The Spycraft Manual: the insider's guide to espionage techniques. Carlton Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84442-577-0.  
  • David Satter (2001). Age of Delirium: the decline and fall of the Soviet Union. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08705-5.  

External links


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