Special Operations Unit

Special Operations Unit

:"For the British parachute troops also known as The Red Berets see The Parachute Regiment. For other airborne units, see maroon beret"

Special Operations Unit (Serbian: Јединица за специјалне операције, "Jedinica za specijalne operacije" ЈСО/JSO; or Црвене беретке, "Crvene beretke" {Red Berets}), was an elite special unit of the Serbian police and reported directly to the Serbian ministry of the interior. It was officially incorporated into the security system of the FR Yugoslavia in the spring of 1996, by merging paramilitary units which operated in Bosnian and Croatian wars under command of Željko Ražnatović "Arkan" (the Tigers) and Franko Simatović (the "Red berets") and under the auspice of Jovica Stanišić, head of Serbia security service (Ресор државне безбедности, РДБ; "Resor državne bezbednosti", RDB). From 1996 to November 2001, when members of this unit organized a public protest, it was formally under the competence of the RDB. The unit was finally disbanded in March 2003, after Serbian prime minister Zoran Đinđić was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy in which some members of the unit were involved (Zvezdan Jovanović, officer of the JSO and Milorad Ulemek "Legija", former commander of the unit, were convicted on May 23 2007 for their parts in this assassination).

Patrons and numerous members and of the unit and its predecessors are sentenced, accused or held responsible for numerous war crimes in Yugoslav wars, as well as political assassinations in Serbia. The unit's official commander Franko Simatović and its gray eminence Jovica Stanišić (head of RDS during Slobodan Milošević rule) are being tried (as of 2006) at International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes. Various other members are convicted or being tried for the Ibarska magistrala assassination and murders of Ivan Stambolić and Slavko Ćuruvija.


The origins of the unit can be traced back into April 1991, in the eve of War in Croatia, when a group of armed men, led by Franko Simatović and Dragan Vasiljković set off from Belgrade to Knin. Several days earlier, on 16 March, Milošević promised "preparations of appropriate units capable of defending interests of Serbia and Serb people outside Serbia" in a closed session with Serbian municipal presidents.cite web|url=http://www.vreme.com/cms/view.php?id=464243|title=Feljton: Jedinica, Deo I|publisher=Vreme|author=Filip Švarm|date=2006-09-07|language=Serbian|archiveurl=http://www.bosnia.org.uk/news/news_body.cfm?newsid=2227|archivedate=2006-09-25] . The order of creating such a unit was given to Jovica Stanišić, Milošević's strongman and head of RDB, which committed the task to Stanišić. The unit had not have any formal connections with Belgrade, so the operation was taken solely within RDB, without involvement of Serbian Ministry of the Interior. In Knin, Simatović and Vasiljković contacted Milan Martić, minister of the interior of Republic of Serbian Krajina, who subordinated a group of fighters under Vasiljković's command, who gave them thorough training and imposed the discipline; the unit would later became known under the name "Knindže" (a pun on "Knin" and "ninja"), and Vasiljković under the war name "Kapetan Dragan".cite web|url=http://www.trial-ch.org/en/trial-watch/profile/db/facts/dragan_vasiljkovic_478.html|title=Dragan Vasiljkovic|publisher=Trial Watch|date=2007-04-12] The name "Red bers" came after the battle for Glina, when Vasiljković distributed the berets to his men.

The other wing of the unit was apparently formed in May 1991, in Eastern Slavonia. According to the hints given by Simatović, the unit seems to have been involved in Borovo Selo killings on 1-2 May, when 12 Croatian policemen were killed and several tens wounded. May 4 will later be taken as the unit's anniversary. According to several witness accounts, Radovan Stojičić "Badža", an official of Serbian ministry of interior, was in charge for operations in Eastern Slavonia.cite web|url=http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/serbian_digest/289/t289-1.htm|title=The State And The Mafia|author=Milan Milosevic and Uros Komlenovic|date=1997-19-04|publisher=Vreme] . Upon the arrival in the Eastern Slavonia theater, Željko Ražnatović "Arkan" took over the paramilitary unit under the name of "Serbian Volunteer Guard" ("Srpska dobrovoljačka garda"), better known as "Arkan's Tigers".cite web|url=http://iwpr.net/?p=tri&s=f&o=164101&apc_state=henitri2001|title=ANALYSIS: Milosevic Indicted Over Croatian Crimes|publisher=IWPR|author=Mirko Klarin|date=2001-10-13]

They were among the elite of the Serbian fighting forces and used to do the dirty work at the behest of the Serbian government during the Balkan wars of the 1990s in Croatia and Bosnia. The trials in Serbia for the assassination of Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian Prime Minister 2001-2003, as well as the trials for war crimes at the Hague Tribunal have revealed the numerous and complicated connections between the activities of the Serbian government led by Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian secret services under his command, and the criminal groups operating in the combat zone where the war crimes were being committed.

Equipment and Logistic

The "Red bers" were best equipped. It was independent from other army and police units because it had its own logistics. Most of the weapons used by JSO were domestic M70B1, CZ-99, M76 sniper rifles, M80 Zolja RPG, M84 machine gun but also some foreign weapons like HK MP5, M4A1 and others. Unit also had a number of vehicles like Russian-made UAZ-469 jeeps armed with Browning 12.7 mm, Nissan pick-ups with Zastava BGA 30mm and M84, Pinzgauers, armoured Land Rover Wolfs, HMMWVs. There were also some armoured combat vehicles like BOV M86 APC and BOV-3 AAA, M-80A IFV, some IFV/APC's captured in Bosnia like Grizzly and YPR-765 APC's but also a number of light rocket-artillery systems like "Košava" and "Saće". JSO also had air unit equipped with a number of Soko Gazelle light anti-tank helicopters, Bell 212 helicopters, two Mi-17V transport helicopters, two Mi-24V attack helicopters, a number of Soko J-20 Kraguj aircraft and few other aircraft.


The unit was disbanded by the decision of Government of Serbia on 25 March, 2003, 13 days after assassination of Zoran Đinđić. [cite web|url=http://www.mfa.gov.yu/Bilteni/Engleski/b260303_e.html#N11|title=Government disbands police Special Operations Unit|date=2003-03-25|publisher=Beta news agency] . Its members were sacked or transferred to other police units.
* Milorad Ulemek "Legija" was sentenced to 40 years in prison for assassinations of Ivan Stambolić and Zoran Đinđić each, and 15 years for Ibarska magistrala
* Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović "Frenki" are being tried for crimes against humanity and war crimes in International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslaviacite web|url=http://www.un.org/icty/cases-e/cis/jstanisic/cis-stanisic.pdf|title=Stanišić and Simatović|publisher=ICTY|date=]
* Dragan Vasiljković is arrested in Australia on the arrest warrant from Croatia and awaits for extradition (as of May 2007)
* Željko Ražnatović "Arkan" was assassinated on 15 January 2000 in Belgrade. His assassins, from Serbian criminal circles, were arrested and tried but the speculations on political background remained.
* Radovan Stojičić "Badža" was assassinated on April 11 1997 in Belgrade. The executors have not been discovered up to this day.


ee also

*Serbian Ministry of the Interior
*SAJ (Special Anti-terrorist Unit)

External links

* [http://www.crveneberetke.com/naslovna.htm Special Operations Unit (JSO)]
* [http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/kosovo/units.htm Serbian Police units in Kosovo]
*sr icon "Feljton – Jedinica", Filip Švarm, Vreme (7-21 September 2006) [http://www.vreme.com/cms/view.php?id=464243 Part I] , [http://www.vreme.com/cms/view.php?id=464949 Part II] , [http://www.vreme.com/cms/view.php?id=465620 Part III]

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