REVIEW: European Counter-Terrorist Units 1972–2017

Elite Series 220

Each book in the Elite series focuses on a single army or elite unit, military tactics or a group of famous commanders. Military uniforms, insignia and equipment are shown in full color artwork. Elite Books cover the full spectrum of military history, examining the greatest armies, units and commanders of the ancient, medieval, Napoleonic, American Civil War, World War I and World War II. Featuring full specially commissioned color artworks of typical military uniforms and equipment, together with organizational diagrams and a wealth of black and white photography, these books provide an accessible resource for enthusiasts of all ages.

Leigh’s book details the modern evolution of Counter Terrorist (CT)Units in Europe. Counter-terrorism incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategy is a government’s plan to use the instruments of national power to neutralize terrorists, their organizations, and their networks in order to render them incapable of using violence to instill fear and to coerce the government or its citizens to react in accordance with the terrorists’ goals.

The logical start point for the modern Counter Terrorist Unit development pivots on the 1972 Olympic games in Munich Germany wherein the Palestinian Black September group forced their way into the barracks of the Israeli team, took 11 hostages, demanded release of political prisoners, demanded a plane and safe passage to Cairo. At this time no counter terrorist unit existed anywhere in the world. It was during this crisis that the untrained and unprepared German Police unit attempted to ambush the terrorist and the results were horrific. The result was all hostages killed, one policeman, and five of the eight terrorists dead. Obviously the Germans were criticized for their mishandling of the situation. To be fair, no country at that point in time, had a competent CT Unit. However, within a few years almost all identified this gap and developed their own internal Units. Among the first to do so were the French as they Implemented the GIGN as well as the British as they tasked the SAS to develop this capability immediately. Other countries would quickly follow suit in Europe. The list of European CT Units is extensive;

The author has also done a great job of dedicating specific chapters to discuss intervention tactics and techniques, unit profiles, and weapons used by some of the CT units. Another great reference and must have for military historians worldwide.

About the author: Leigh Neville is an Australian national who has written a number of books on both modern conventional military units and special operations forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, their weapons and their vehicles, including six titles for Osprey with several more in development. He has also consulted on military topics for several wargame companies and television documentary makers. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two dogs. He can be contacted via his website at

This book is available on (US) and at Osprey Publishing.

Book review by Christopher (Moon) Mullins