Egyptian Army resorted to unprecedented security measures by deploying Special Unit 777 to clear out Midan Tahrir and seize demonstrators on Friday and Tuesday. The crowd of protesters welcomed Special Unit 777 with contrasting moods. A group of protesters clapped hands while others sought confrontation and shouted anti-Mubarak slogans addressing the former President as a “dictator” and asking for his prosecution.
These utterly ambiguous moments mirror a wider, chaotic political panorama.
Unit 777 also known as Task Force 777 is an Egyptian military counter-terrorism and special operations unit created in 1977 by the government of Anwar Sadat in response to concerns of increased terrorist activity following the expulsion of Soviet military advisors from the country by Sadat and his efforts to achieve peace with Israel.
Initial training for the team came from the U.S. as far back as 1981. Yet, the Unit’s insufficient equipment, lack of operational readiness and heavy rotations of operators in and out of the unit turned it into the “most bungled and tragic counterterrorist squad” on record.
Today, Unit 777 (in Arabic “Wehdat 777 Qataal”) consists of 250-300 men falling under the command of the Army Commando. Both of them are based in Cairo and trained with the help of German Bundespolizei GSG-9, French Police squad GIGN and American Delta Force.
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The task force 777 was deployed in very few occasions, and its misconduct often resulted into astonishing and dramatic failures.
When dispatched to Cyprus in response to the hijacking of a Cyprus Air passenger aircraft, Egyptian authorities failed to communicate Cyprus the deployment of the taskforce. Their sudden appearance on the aircraft resulted in a clamorous misunderstanding. Cyprotic security forces mistook the Unit 777 for a terrorist squad and opened fire on them, killing at least 15 Egyptian soldier.
They were subsequently deployed in Malta to deal with the hijacking of Egypt Air Boeing 737 in 1985. A series of misconducts resulted in the accidental killing of 55 out of the 86 passengers of the aircraft.
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