Australian commandos operating in Africa

Australian Special Forces have been operating in several African countries over the past year, gathering intelligence on terrorist activities, a report said on Tuesday.

The Sydney Morning Herald said that 4 Squadron of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) had mounted dozens of clandestine operations in places such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya in a role normally carried out by spies.

Citing a government source, it said that the missions by the previously unknown squadron were believed to involve terrorism intelligence gathering amid concerns about the threat posed by the Islamist al-Shabaab militia.

They are also aimed at developing rescue strategies for evacuating trapped Australian civilians while assessing African border controls and exploring landing sites for possible military interventions.

The information gathered flows into databases used by the US and its allies, it said.

The Herald added that the operations have raised serious concerns among some sections of the military and intelligence communities that the troops do not have adequate legal protection or contingency plans if they are captured.

False passports
“They have all the espionage skills but without [Australian Secret Intelligence Service’s] legal cover,” said one government source.

According to the newspaper, ASIS officers are permitted under Australian law to carry false passports and, if arrested, to deny who they are employed by.

Defence Force members, such as the SAS, on normal operations cannot carry false identification and cannot deny which government they work for.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith refused to confirm the group’s existence “because we don’t want to put at risk either operations or our national security”.

But he insisted that all Australian operatives overseas did their job within the law and had proper protection.

“People would expect from time to time the SAS, ASIS and department of foreign affairs and trade are involved in making sure Australians overseas are not at risk … Whenever we have our people in the field they have the proper and appropriate protections, he told Sky News.”

“Whether someone is working for ASIS or someone is operating for or with the SAS, we ensure they operate in accordance with domestic and international law and that they have appropriate and proper protection.” — AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

‘Frustrated’ police resort to force

Regulation uncertainty leaves slap-happy police and soldiers to decide when people should or shouldn’t be allowed on the streets

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders