Information about „Groupe Alpha“ leaked on French radio-show
by Patrick Bahzad
The cat is out of the bag: last Saturday, a famous French radio-show aired a programme disclosing information about the existence of what is called the „Groupe Alpha„. Although this is not the first time rumours have surface about the existence of this unit, the details that emerged now certainly make for an interesting read.
From „La Main rouge“ to „Groupe Alpha„
The last time France’s intelligence services used „targeted assassinations“ on a large scale was during the Algerian War for Independence (1954-1962). French SDECE (the predecessor to today’s DGSE) hit between 200 and 300 targets during that period, either Algerian activists, arms dealers or even lawyers who had made common cause with the Algerian insurgents. Those killings were handled internally or sub-contracted to an informal proxy of French intelligence called „La main rouge„.
Badge of „11e Régiment Parachutiste de Choc“ – DGSE’s elite action unit
After the Algerian War and until the mid-1980s, „targeted assassinations“ became an exceptional task for DGSE or other branches of French intel, like the „11e Régiment Parachutiste de Choc“ or the „Service Action„, with the notable exception of Lebanon, where French agents killed the mastermind and operatives behind the assassination of French ambassador Louis Delamare in Beirut in the early 1980s. It is also rumoured that a certain car bomb explosion on a market in Damascus was staged by French agents or proxies around the same period.
„Groupe Alpha“ was created in the mid-1980s, when it became apparent that „assassination“ missions were more and more difficult to organise in areas such as the Middle-East. „Groupe Alpha“ was thus set up with personnel having no prior engagements or deployments in the region and its operatives – probably never more than a dozen – are handled in a totally compartmentalised way. They have no common training and no contact even with the „Service Action“ of DGSE, which is usually tasked with the more „hairy“ missions devoted to French intel.
An unknown track-record
Is is unclear how often the group has been sent to work, especially in recent years, as French authorities rely more and more on cooperation with US drone teams for „kill“ missions against Jihadi groups in North-Africa and the Middle-East. What is certain is that „Groupe Alpha“ has been assigned certain tasks in the former Yugoslavia, in the early 1990s, and in mainland Europe, in connection with various Islamic terror groups since the mid-1990s.
Abu Hamza, a probable aborted target of „Groupe Alpha“
Details are very sketchy though about operations in which it played a significant role. After a terror campaign in France in 1995, a small number of suspected Algerian terrorists or terror supporters disappeared in a couple of European countries. Their fate or whereabouts have never been clarified, although it was more likely at the time that Algerian Military Intelligence might be to blame for their probable deaths.
The few confirmed cases in which the name or signature of „Groupe Alpha“ does surface are related, for example, to a plan aimed at killing London based hate-preacher Abu Hamza in 1998. According to various news reports, French DGSE – tired by years of Britisch extradition procedures – contemplated having the man shot and letting a neo-nazi group take the fall. The plan was finally abandoned in light of the possible fall-out it might have.
weapons seized by Spanish police in 2002
In 2002, two „Groupe Alpha“ agents were also arrested by Spanish police near Barcelona in what French authorities later described as a „training exercise„. Interestingly, one of the French agents was a former Algerian national with a French passport. In the trunk of his car, the Guardia Civil found a genuine „James Bond“ type arsenal. The arrest caused a bit of a stir between both countries, but the two agents were finally released on bail and never appeared in court.
Off the record, it was explained to Barcelona’s magistrates that the agents would never face the charges brought forward by the Spanish justice and they had been given a new identity, which made any international arrest warrants useless.
Spy novels as a possible blue print ?
While factual evidence is hard to come by, ex-DGSE agent and security consultant Pierre Martinet – formerly a member of the „Service Action“ branch – wrote two spy novels in 2012 and 2013 which, in hindsight, shed an interesting light on the whole leaking of „Groupe Alpha“ existence.
In the novels, the DGSE team with the famous „license to kill“ is called „Cellule Delta„, an easy give-away for what the author referred to, but unknown to a large public in those years. This Delta Cell is used mainly in North Africa (Libya) and the Middle-East (Lebanon), to try and neutralize targets identified by DGSE headquarters.
Cover page to 2012 fiction „Delta Cell“
While Pierre Martinet has always insisted on his novels being entirely fiction, he is also known in French politics for his repeated calls for a more aggressive approach towards the organisers and leaders of terrorism, where ever these people hide.
In close cooperation with the US
More recently, during hearings in front of the French Parliament’s Intelligence Commission, State officials confirmed about 15 targeted kills in Mali since 2013. Most of these operations however have been led by airstrikes. Two of the most well known cases of targeted killings however took place in entirely different areas, notably in Somalia, where Ahmed Godane – a Shebab leader responsible for the abduction of two French DGSE agents – was killed in an US led drone-strike following French surveillance and confirmation of his whereabouts……………..
MSNBC reported that Seymour Hersh has uncovered evidence that Vice President Cheney operated secret assassination squads out of the White House by using military personnel without the knowledge of the CIA. Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC Countdown discussed the report. Olbermann and Jonathan Alter add commentary. Alter said that details will curl your hair. Details to follow in a Seymour Hersh book about the possibly illegal activity; MSNBC plans additional reporting.