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By David Guyatt


It is the number that carries the most occult significance.  Throughout Europe it has historically been regarded as an ill omen.  In Norse mythology, the number 13 often signifies death.  Today, in the United Kingdom, there exists a paramilitary unit called Group 13.  The sole purpose of this ultra secretive unit is deniable assassination and it operates in the world of shadows.  So little is known about them, that it is exceptionally hard to document its activities with any certainty. 

One individual - a former civilian undercover agent for the security services, recounted his story of a encounter with Group 13.  Gary Murray, author of “Enemies of the State” had decided to research Group 13 to write a book on them.  He soon changed his mind.  One day during his research phase he was forcibly dragged in to the back of a Transit van and had a gun stuck to his head.  A voice told him it would be unwise to continue his project.  Sensibly, he decided to abandon the project and instead write a book on an altogether different subject.

Group 13 is generally believed to have evolved from former SAS soldiers and Security and Intelligence operatives who were once active in Northern Ireland during the mid to late nineteen seventies when a Labour Government was still in power.  Fred Holroyd, a Captain in British Army Intelligence, served in Northern Ireland during this period.  Holroyd was tasked with developing informers and other human intelligence sources connected to the IRA.  It was inherently dangerous work, made a lot worse by a viscous turf battle between MI5 and MI6 for control of the Northern Ireland “patch.” 

Matters grew increasingly nasty as “assets” for each of the two contending groups were tossed to the wolves.  Holroyd, when interviewed, outlined some details of this dirty war, recalled incidents where bombs were placed by one of these factions and then roundly blamed on the IRA.  Holroyd’s story and later disgraceful treatment at the hands of the British Army are recounted in his book “War without Dishonour.”  Holroyd’s account sheds light on the so called “Shoot to Kill” policy in Northern Ireland that resulted in the dysfunctional investigation of former senior police officer, John Stalker.  This investigation ultimately resulted in the gripping feature film: Hidden Agenda.

The Special Air Service was formed during WW11 by David Stirling with the intention to operate behind enemy lines and to perform acts of sabotage and assassination.  By 1969, the SAS had been sent to Northern Ireland to perform covert operations against the IRA - which included assassination.  To cover their deployment to this politically sensitive area they chose the guise of “training teams.”  A succession of cover names was used over the next few years; these included the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF), the 14th Intelligence unit, and the Four Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers.  Fred Holroyd states that the latter was very definitely a SAS undercover unit stationed at the Royal Engineers base at Castiledillon, Armagh.

1974 was a critical year in British politics.  It saw the election victory of the Labour Party in February and was soon followed by rumours of an impending coup d’etat.  Right wing groups operating in the shadows of power began to form themselves.  These groups saw Premier Harold Wilson and certain members of his Cabinet, as no holds barred communists taking orders from Moscow.  The idea that Wilson was a communist mole is, even by today’s paranoid delusions, a farcical belief.  At that time, however, planning for a right wing coup was seen by these extremists as the only alternative to keeping Britain from the wily grasp of Moscow.  One of these groups was named GB75, and was organised by David Sterling, founder of the SAS.  Significantly, GB75 and the other groups had close contacts to the British security and intelligence community, from which they probably received some form of unofficial succour.

Founded in 1970 was another mysterious group which called itself Resistance and Psychological Operations Committee (RPOC).  RPOC was established in line with the Reserve Forces Association and was said to be a reflection of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) - a WW11 dirty tricks operation.  According to one former member, RPOC had a clandestine section which formed an underground resistance movement in the event Russia invaded the United Kingdom.  With a nod and a wink of the Conservative government of the day, it forged close links to the British security and intelligence apparatus, and “…formed close links with the SAS…own secret intelligence network.”

Little is known of the SAS’s secret intelligence network, apart from one enlightening publication.  Ranulf Fiennes, the Artic trekker was a one time member of the SAS.  In his book, The Feather Men, he reveals the existence of an unofficial group of former SAS officers and soldiers who, amongst other activities, are tasked with protecting members of the SAS who’s lives are under threat as a result of their activities.  According to his book, Fiennes learned a contract had been put out on him, only after this SAS secretive group had more or less mopped up a freelance assassination team sent to kill Fiennes.  In this case, “mopping up” meant killing members of the assassination team.  Fiennes further alleged that this group had been founded by David Sterling.

It is not possible to say with any certainty that this group - or elements within it - evolved to become Group 13.  However, the associations are clearly similar.  Both are highly unofficial but desirable to certain factions within government.  Both are said to be responsible for political assassinations both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.  Both appear to lean towards right wing agenda’s.

Perhaps the best known incident that involved the SAS in a “wet operation” was the assassination of an IRA unit in Gibraltar in 198… which subsequently led to the explosive TV documentary Death on the Rock.  The controversy surrounding this event raged for years, with the Sunday Times Insight Team leading the attack on the credibility of eye-witnesses who claimed the three members of the IRA unit were gunned down in cold blood.  Placed in context against the numerous SAS assassinations which took place in Ireland during this same period, it is hard to lend much credence to the official story of cock-up.

Of some interest is the statement of former CIA operative and former member of an American based, international assassination team, Gene “Chip” Tatum.  The team, Tatum says, is called Pegasus and operates around the world.  Targets are normally influential politicians and financiers.  Over a period of several months, Tatum has revealed a number of the operations he claims he was involved in, as well as revealing names of those at senior level he alleges are behind Pegasus activities.  In recent correspondence, he alleges that the British end of Pegasus was operated during the mid-eighties by a high ranking British government official.

Another operation that carries SAS hallmarks was the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Peoples Bureau in London in 1984.  This killing caused immense public outrage and quickly led to the ousting of the Libyan diplomatic Corp.  In a courageous piece of television, Channel Four broadcast a Dispatches programme in 1996 that suggested WPC Fletcher was murdered by elements inside British and American intelligence.  Amongst other startling facts, the programme makers stated that the shot that killed the police officer may have been a “terminal velocity” round.  This technique both reduces the sound of the gunshot as a result of its sub-sonic speed, and creates the impression that the shot was fired from considerable distance.  It is a known technique of SAS snipers.

There may also be other connections between Group Thirteen and the United States intelligence community.  J. Orlin Grabbe, an American Professor who runs his own financial advisory service, has in recent years earned a reputation within internet “conspiracy” circles as being well informed about a number of illegal intelligence operations.  One of these focus on the alleged assassination of Vincent Foster, a close associate and legal adviser to President Clinton. 

Grabbe, a former professor at Wharton Business School, in one of his internet posts alluded to the existence of a highly secret US assassination team that operates out of the National Security Agency (NSA).  The unit, Grabbe claims, is called “I-3.”  In a recent communication he added that the information on this unit was provided by a “former CIA agent with the CIA’s highest security clearance.”  It may just be a coincidence that this NSA unit shares a common name with “Group 13” and just happens to also be in the same line of business.  However, in the closed world of the intelligence community such “coincidences” should be viewed carefully.

 Despite the stiff secrecy and widespread smoke and mirrors that surround the activities of Group 13, some significant additional information came to light following the Scott Enquiry into the arms to Iraq affair.  Gerald James, the former Chairman of Astra Holdings Plc - a leading British munitions manufacturer - has written of his knowledge surrounding group 13 in his explosive book In the Public Interest, which blows the lid on British government involvement in arming Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

 During a lengthy interview, James outlined how he had been ousted from the Board of Astra.  He believes his removal was orchestrated by non-executive director Stephan Kock, a self acknowledged former Security and Intelligence officer in the employ of Midland Bank Plc.  James, thereafter, undertook to learn more about the mysterious Kock  In written evidence presented to the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee looking into exports to Iraq, on 5 February 1992, James stated that he was told, in an unguarded moment, that Kock was “… a former head of ‘Group 13.’  This curious organisation is apparently a hit or contract squad for the Foreign Office and Security Services.”  James adds “The Foreign Office is said to draw Group 13 operatives from the SAS as well as from private security firms,” and that “It’s duties involve ‘service to the nation.’”  James also makes clear that Kock had exceptional high level contacts inside the intelligence community, and that boasted of his ready access to the highest levels of the British government, including 10 Downing Street.

 The Foreign Office reference, clearly indicates an MI6 connection.  Known also as the Secret Intelligence Service  - a name well known by lovers of Bond movies - MI6 activities come under the control of the Foreign Office.  Perhaps the now infamous “007” License to Kill pedigree has moved from those fictional men in black bow ties and Tuxedo’s, to those all too secretive men in camouflage smocks and shoulder patches inscribed “Death from Above.”

 History of British Assassination

 State sanctioned murder is as old as the hills.  British exposure to many assassination techniques would have been gained during the Crusade’s, when British Knights came into contact with Middle Eastern religious sects specialising in these techniques.  The word Assassin derives from the Arabic “hassas” meaning “hashhish eater” signifying those who were sent to murder Christian leaders were under the influence of the drug Hashhish.  Other contacts would have come from Britain’s prolonged rule over India.  An Indian religious sect known as “thugees” specialised in strangulation, and gave rise to the still common term “thug.”  Still other associations arose during British contacts with killer sects during the Chinese “Boxer Rebellion.”

 Number 13 - unlucky for some

Intelligence insiders allege that Russia, during the height of the cold war, operated its own assassination squad under cover of the KGB’s “Department 13.”  This has led some observers to muse that British and US adoption of number “13” for “Wet Operations” may be an insider’s joke.  Those assassinated might fail to see the humour.  One such individual, Dr. Gerald Bull - designer of the ill-fated Supergun - was shot from behind, outside his apartment in Brussels, in early 1990.  Rumoured to be an Israeli hit, sources close to Israeli’s “Mossad” deny this.  A few months before his assassination, Bull, writing to a colleague, stated he was “advised in a letter of an imminent accident.”  Bull identified the threat as having come from Foreign Office  - who responded by saying the “action was by ‘a few irresponsible juniors.’”


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