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WAR ON TERRORISM: Fears grow for elite squad; Britain's special task forces.

BRITAIN will rely heavily on its elite special forces in the expected conflict in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence will not disclose the location of these units but experts believe many of them will already be inside Afghanistan, gathering vital intelligence.

Although numbering only a few hundred, these shadowy warriors are the cream of the British military and capable of causing more havoc than entire regiments.

Britain's special forces are contained in six main units:

SAS

THE best known and most feared military unit in the world, the main force is the Hereford-based 22 Regiment, with around 350 soldiers.

Specialising in anti-terrorism, the SAS was formed in 1940 to fight behind German lines in North Africa. Its four-man teams operate with a high degree of independence and could work deep within Afghanistan.

SBS

THE Royal Marines' counterpart of the SAS, its members train to attack from the sea but are so highly skilled they can be used in any combat zone.

As well as their nautical skills, SBS recruits must master route-finding, climbing, survival in extreme temperatures and demolition work and have served at least two years in the Royal Marines before they apply.

PATHFINDERS

AN offshoot of the Parachute Regiment, the Pathfinders are a small unit whose soldiers are trained in HALO parachuting - jumping from a very high altitude and opening the chute at the last possible minute for maximum surprise.

The unit would secure landing sites for aircraft and airborne soldiers to follow them into battle.

MAWC

ANOTHER Royal Marines unit, the Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre is regarded as one of the toughest outfits in the British military.

Members are expert climbers and practise surviving hundreds of miles from friendly forces. Much of their training is carried out in the Highlands. They would be invaluable in patrolling and gathering intelligence on Taliban units.

148 MEIKTILA

A SECRETIVE part of the Royal Artillery, 148 Commando Battery is the only unit in the British Army whose soldiers must hold both the Wings emblem of the Parachute Regiment and Dagger of the Royal Marines.

The unit lands behind enemy lines and acts as the eyes of naval guns offshore, directing their fire on to enemy positions.

MI6

ALSO known as the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6 operatives are Britain's spies abroad.

Always strong in the Middle East, MI6 have worked closely with the SAS in helping Oman and Yemen fight communist and Islamic rebels and a small MI6 team has been operating in Afghanistan for several years, reporting on the Taliban and the country's heroin industry.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 30, 2001
Words:425
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