Swiss-armed, US-trained: Maltese response team behind raid on migrant-hijacked ship (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
The Maltese special operations team seized the ship on Thursday morning. The raid was difficult because it wasn’t immediately clear how many migrants participated in the hijacking, and there were women and children among more than 100 asylum seekers on board. There were no reports of shots fired and no casualties. A total of five people were arrested.Also on rt.com Maltese troops storm merchant ship hijacked by migrants off Libyan coast (VIDEO)
While the authorities provided little detail of the operation, footage from the scene showed heavily armed, masked men patrolling the liberated vessel.
The small Mediterranean nation of Malta has 475,000 residents, with around 1,700 of them being active-duty military personnel. The country decided to create a separate Special Operations Unit (SOU) in 2017, shortly after the EU migrant crisis reached its peak. The grueling training included lessons with US and Italian instructors.
The SOU is largely based on the army’s ‘C’ Company, which is designated for deployment in the most “challenging” environment. The new unit assumed its role as the nation’s elite rapid-response force. It now boasts the best weapons and equipment. So much so, in fact, that the local media wrote that the new unit’s members received Swiss-made SIG SG 530 assault rifles, while the regular troops were left with “cheap AK clones.”
Headquartered in the Hay Wharf naval base in the coastal town of Fiorina, the SOU has two platoons with the third one due to be set up this year.
The special ops unit doesn’t have much combat experience as, just like the rest of Malta’s Armed Forces, it is mostly used to deal with migrants during the missions of the EU’s border control agency, Frontex. The SOU teams also help the police in raids against organized crime, including hunting for contraband and drug-busting.
Maltese troops do, however, receive anti-piracy training, as part of Operation Atalanta, a joint EU effort to combat Somali pirates.
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