Keenie Meenie Services

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Keenie Meenie Services, also known as KMS Ltd, was a private military corporation set up by ex-SAS officers in the 1970s. The name has been claimed to be Swahili for the movement of a snake through the grass, or Arabic for covert operation[1]. The name Keenie Meenie has also been attributed to an SAS slang term for special operations[2]. KMS is the predecessor to Saladin Security a security firm tasked with protecting the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan[3].


Formed in 1974 as a subsidiary of Control Risks by a former SAS officer, Major David Walker, its brief was to win government contracts for security work. In 1977 Walker staged a management buyout and took control. He was joined by Colonel Jim Johnson who had managed the Yemen operation for David Stirling and the company base was moved to Jersey.[4]

Walker, a former captain in the Special Air Services, registered the company in Jersey as "Executive International" to hide the identities of fellow board members Col. James "Jim" Johnson (who went on to become a broker for Lloyds of London), Brig. Mike Wingate Gray and John Martin Southern of the Blackwall Green, Ltd. insurance firm.

KMS's first major contract was training the Sultan of Oman's special forces. In 1983, the company was hired to train Sri Lankan forces fighting the Tamil Tigers.

Sri Lanka

In 1984, KMS was approved by the British government to train the Special Task Force arm of the Sri Lankan military against the Tamil rebels. The STF was widely reported to have been committing atrocities against the Tamil population and by 1987 KMS had moved their two hundred personnel to Latin America. The British press had reported, though the company denied it, that employees for KMS were quitting their jobs because the Sri Lankan troops were out of control.[5]

Iran-Contra Affair

In 1987, the discovery of a flow chart prepared by Oliver North proved the company's involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. During the Iran-Contra investigations, KMS was accused of repeatedly carrying out sabotage operations in Nicaragua that included mining the Managua harbor and destroying enemy camps, buildings and pipelines.[6]

That June, Walker and Johnson handed over the day-to-day running of KMS to two former SAS officers, and much of the work was passed to a subsidiary company based in London. From time to time during 1987, other stories surfaced about KMS, alleging that they were training the guerrillas in Afghanistan at the behest of the CIA. [7]


On November 22, 1987 the London Observer's Simon de Bruxelles published a three page proposal from KMS to the CIA suggesting sending small teams of instructors into Afghanistan to train rebels in "demolition, sabotage, reconnaissance and para-medicine"[8].

John K. Cooley has written about the role of KMS in Afghanistan. He says "The initials KMS stood for "Keenie-Meenie Services". This name was a kind of insiders' joke for merceneries who had served on the British side in the Mau Mau war in the 1950s in colonial Kenya. It was supposed to be derived from a Swahili word for something done covertly or slipping silently through the grass like a serpent". He goes on to write about the firm's role in Afghanistan:

"It was indeed KMS, along with individual SAS veterans, to which the main British role in training holy warrior cadre for the Afghan Jihad seems to have fallen".[9].

KMS was accompanied by Saladin Security (a subsidiary) and Defence Systems Limited in their training programs in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Oman. KMS closed down in the early 1990s, and Saladin began operating more internationally[10].

Parliamentary Questions


Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was asked about KMS in 1987. Labour MP Dale Campbell-Savours asked:

"To ask the Prime Minister on what occasions since 1979 representatives of Her Majesty's Government discussed the use of Keenie Meenie Services or Saladin Security with Colonel Oliver North; and if she will make a statement".

The Prime Minister's response was:

"It has been the practice of successive Governments not to answer questions about the details of discussions which may have taken place with foreign Governments".[11].

According to John K. Cooley both David Walker and Jim Johnson had direct access to 10 Downing Street and Margaret Thatcher[12].


In December 1988 Ken Livingstone asked Tim Sainsbury about whether Keenie Meenie Services had advertised in MOD publications. Sainsbury denied any knowledge of such advertisments[13]. In April 1989 Ken Livingstone asked Tim Sainsbury to publish a letter regarding Keenie Meenie Services advertising. Sainsbury's response was as follows:

"The letter was sent openly and is therefore in the public domain; the text is as follows‘Thank you for your letter of 23 January concerning my written reply to you of 15 December (Col. 684 of the Official Record).’ ‘In that reply I stated that I was not aware of any advertisements having been procured or placed in the Ministry of Defence publications by KMS and that remains the case.’ ‘The extracts you provided with your letter were from a brochure which was produced as a commercial venture by International Military Services Ltd. (IMS) in 1985. Although wholly owned by MOD, IMS is a private Limited company incorporated under the Companies Act and is a distinct and separate entity from MOD. In contracting for Defence Exports it adheres to Government policies and to guidelines issued by the MOD. But within these limitations it is free to pursue business and to take initiatives in exactly the same way as any other commercial company. It can be engaged by other private companies and on occasions by HMG in connection with contracts for the export of British defence equipment and associated services in the commercial environment.’ ‘The brochure concerned was entitled Internal Security —Counter Insurgency'. Entries were paid for by various advertisers as a means of publicising the services they offered. Presumably IMS at the time regarded the publication as a viable commercial venture but I understand that it was not a regular publication and has not reappeared since 1985. This was a matter for the commercial judgment of IMS and there is no suggestion that they in any way transgressed the guidelines under which they operate.’ ‘You also asked about the nature of the services provided by IMS to overseas armed forces and paramilitary organisations. This can and does cover a wide range of activities but it can be defined in general terms and in the 133W words of the pamphlet itself as the supply of military equipment and the provision of "associated support such as the installation, commissioning and maintenance of equipment and the training of personnel". I must emphasise that IMS works within the constraints of Government policies which in this field, as you know, take account of a wide range of political, security and humanitarian conditions.’ ‘MOD was not and did not expect to be involved in either the publication of the brochure by IMS or the placing of the K MS advertisement and there is therefore no question of correcting or amending the Official Record of my answer of 15 December 1988.’"[14].


Ken Connor (2002) Ghost Force: The Secret History of the SAS, Phoenix: London


Saladin Security | SAS


  1. Giles Foden, Blowback Chronicles, The Guardian, 15-September-2001, Accessed 08-September-2009
  2. Abdel-Fatau Musah & Kayode Fayemi, Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma, 2002, Pluto Press: London P.47
  3. Andrew Mayeda and Mike Blanchfield, Private firms rush to fill security vacuum in Afghanistan, CanWest News Service, 22-November-2007, Accessed 08-September-2009
  4. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace: 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray, 1994, p200.
  5. Tamil Guardian,An elite believing in terror as their creed, Tamil Guardian, 25-July-2001, Accessed 08-September-2009
  6. The Centre for Public Integrity,Making a Killing, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Accessed 08-September-2009
  7. The SAS: Savage Wars of Peace: 1947 to the Present, by Anthony Kemp, John Murray, 1994, p201.
  8. Giles Foden, Blowback Chronicles, The Guardian, 15-September-2001, Accessed 08-September-2009
  9. John K. Cooley, Google Books Preview pp 76-77, Unholy wars: Afghanistan, America and international terrorism, Accessed 15-September-2009
  10. The Centre for Public Integrity,Making a Killing, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Accessed 08-September-2009
  11. Margaret Thatcher, Saladin Security and Keenie Meenie ServicesHC Deb 01 December 1987 vol 123 c509W, Hansard References, 01-December-1987, Accessed 15-September-2009
  12. John K. Cooley, Google Books Preview pp 76-77, Unholy wars: Afghanistan, America and international terrorism, Accessed 15-September-2009
  13. Tim Sainsbury, HC Deb vol 143 c686W, Hansard References, 15 December 1988, Accessed 09-September-2009
  14. Tim Sainsbury, HC Deb vol 150 cc132-3W, Hansard References, 4-April-1989, Accessed 08-September-2009