Special Reconnaissance Regiment
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) is a Special Forces Regiment of the British Army. It was established on 6 April 2005 at RMA Sandhurst and is a component of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) alongside the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS), supported by the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). It is the successor unit to the deeply secretive Special Reconnaissance Unit formed in 1972/3, which operated via a range of cover names including 4 Field Survey Troop, Northern Ireland Training and Advisory Teams (Northern Ireland), 14th Intelligence Company.
Role in De Menezes killing
According to a number of press reports, Members of the regiment were involved in the surveillance of Jean Charles de Menezes prior to his shooting on 22 July 2005. The Guardian reported:
- After initially insisting that the role of the undercover, plainclothes unit was "low-level" and "behind the scenes", Whitehall sources told the Guardian yesterday that the soldiers were directly involved in the surveillance operation. They were members of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, set up in April to help combat international terrorism. It is the first time the new regiment has been engaged in an operation in Britain.
- The regiment was formed from the 14th Intelligence Company, known as "14 Int", or the "Det" (for Detachment), a unit set up to gather intelligence covertly on terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland. Its recruits are trained by the SAS. Officials yesterday said the regiment had helped to organise the surveillance operation in the run-up to the shooting, but the undercover soldiers were not physically present at Stockwell tube station.
- However, sources said later that soldiers from the regiment played a much more prominent role than was initially admitted. Whether they were on the bus following Mr de Menezes and at Stockwell tube station could not be ruled in or out, they said. The Ministry of Defence declined to comment, but is unlikely to prevent the Independent Police Complaints Commission from questioning the soldiers.
In March 2006, a Panorama documentary stated that De Menezes's flat had been under surveillance "by an undercover soldier whose parent unit had played a critical covert role in Northern Ireland."
- At 9.33 that Friday morning Jean's last journey had begun. As he left the flat he'd been living in he never imagined that he might never return, and he'd certainly no idea that he was being watched by an undercover soldier known as Tango 10 and a Special Branch surveillance team. According to the soldier's statement he wasn't able to make a positive identification because he was answering the call of nature at the time. He said he wasn't able to transmit what he'd seen and couldn't switch on the video camera. That's why, according to the soldier's statement, there is no video footage of this male.
This soldier testified to the De Menezes inquest under the codename 'Frank' in October 2008.
There were also a number of press reports that armed SRR or other special forces soldiers may have been in the vicinity of the operation. In July 2005, The Times reported on a photograph taken shortly after the shooting:
- Press photographs of members of the armed response team taken in the immediate aftermath of the killing show at least one man carrying a special forces weapon that is not issued to SO19, the Metropolitan police firearms unit.
- The man, wearing civilian clothes with a blue cap marked “Police”, was carrying a specially modified Heckler & Koch G3K rifle with a shortened barrel and a butt from a PSG-1 sniper rifle fitted to it — a combination used by the SAS.
- Another man, dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and trainers, was carrying a Heckler & Koch G36C. Although this weapon is used on occasion by SO19 it appears to be fitted with a target illuminator purchased as an “urgent operational requirement” for UK special forces involved in the war on terror.
The Express carried a similar report in September 2007 about a photo taken the day after the shooting, on 23 July 2005:
- The picture, along with several others, was taken outside Jean Charles's home in a block of flats in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill, and shows several men who appear to be carrying SAS weapons and wearing military issue clothing.
- The man in the blue check shirt wore a helmet with a green SR tag on the side. It is believed this means he was part of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, based next to the SAS HQ in Hereford.
- The SRR works hand in hand with the SAS on counter-terrorist operations and receives specialist training from SAS firearms' instructors.
- The man in the check shirt is also wearing what appears to be a military style flash hood with breathing apparatus, equipment usually used in storming operations.
- A source said: "He is also wearing what appears to be fire-resistant gloves which are used by the SAS."
Return to Northern Ireland
In March 2009, it emerged that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment was to return to Northern Ireland to gather intelligence on dissident republicans. It was disputed whether the Regiment's presence had been requested by PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde or by MI5.
In March 2011, the National Journal reported that the SRR was on the ground as part of the western intervention in Libya:
- Meanwhile, a U.S. military official said that British special forces troops have provided on-the-ground targeting information for NATO airstrikes. A covert British unit, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, has been tasked to operationally “prepare the battlefield.”
- Special Reconnaissance Unit
- Force Research Unit
- Intelligence Corps
- Joint Support Group
- UK Special Forces
- Elite UK forces Special Reconnaissance Regiment
- Barry McCaffrey, Security services questioned over missing evidence in Carroll murder, The Detail, 14 March 2011.
- Barry McCaffrey, PSNI gets limited access to army intelligence says former soldier, The Detail, 14 March 2011
- Eamonn McCann, How the rebels without a cause failed to learn lessons of the past, Belfast Telegraph, 6 April 2011.
- Richard Norton-Taylor Special army unit played central role The Guardian, Thursday August 18 2005
- Stockwell One report, Independent Police Complaints Commission, accessed via BBC News website 8 March 2009.
- Peter Taylor, Programme Transcript, Panorama, BBC News, 9 March 2006.
- transcript (pdf), Stockwell Inquest, 20 October 2008.
- Michael Smith, Could this ‘police officer’ be a soldier?, The Times, 31 July, 2005.
- James Murray, Proof SAS stormed de Menezes home, Sunday Express, 9 September 2007.
- Forces are a 'threat': McGuinness, BBC News, 6 March 2009.
- Dan Keenan and Neil Carnduff, Intelligence forces recalled to North for security duty, Irish Times, 6 March 2009.
- Henry McDonald, Special forces intimidating republicans in Northern Ireland, say dissidents, guardian.co.uk, 21 February 2010.
- Marc Ambinder, Obama Authorizes Libyan Intelligence Finding, National Journal, 30 March 2011.