Special Service Group

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Special Service Group (SSG)
Urdu: عساکرء خدمات خصوصی
SSG HI RES 2.png
Special Service Group Insignia
Active 23 March 1956 – present
Country  Pakistan
Allegiance  Pakistan Army
Branch  Pakistan Army
Type Special Operations Forces
Role Special Operations
Size 8 Battalions (5,600 men)
Garrison/HQ Tarbela Cantonment, Pakistan
Nickname(s) SSG Commandos
Maroon Berets
Pakistani SS
Black Storks [1]
Motto(s) Man Janbazam (I am valiant)
Colours Identifications Maroon and Sky blue
Anniversaries Pakistan Day: 23 March
Engagements Operation Gibraltar
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Grand Mosque Seizure
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Siachen conflict
Indo-Pakistani War of 1999
Operation Silence
War in North-West Pakistan
United Nations Military missions
War in Afghanistan
Operation Zarb-e-Azb
Current Commander Major-General Tahir Masood Bhutta,
General Officer Commanding
Notable Commander Brigadier Tariq Mehmood
Old SSG Insignia

The Special Service Group (SSG) (Urdu: عساکرء خدمات خصوصی‎) is the primary special operations force of the Pakistan Army. The SSG is a regiment-sized unit, and is headquartered at Tarbela Cantonment.[2] It is headed by a major-general and divided into eight battalions. Each battalion comprises 700 men in four companies, with each company split into platoons and then into 10-man teams. Each battalion is commanded by a lieutenant colonel.[citation needed]


19th Baluch (SSG Pak)

SSG Pak was raised by amalgamating 7th/10th Baluch (19 Baluch) and 312 Garrison Company. Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956. In the same year, 19 Baluch was selected[by whom?] for conversion to a special operation force. Consequently, the SSG has inherited many of the traditions and insignia of the Baloch Regiment. The 19th Baluch Regiment's first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Aboobaker Osman Mitha[3] who commanded it for six years till 1961.[4] The first commander of its Alpha Company was Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Gaideen Khan Abdullai Mahsud. Their initial training and orientation as regards tactics was based on the US Special Forces pattern with whom they co-operated closely in the Cold War years.[3] The SSG initially had 6 companies and each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare.[3] The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964. In August 1965, scope of SSG was raised from a battalion size force to larger Special Operations outfit and instead of 19 Baluch (SSG) they simply adopted the name Special Service Group.[3] The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.[3] Later on, Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.[3]

New SSG Insignia outside SSG garrison and former headquarters at Cherat

1965 India-Pakistan War

The SSG guerrillas were initially deployed along the Afghan border to repel Afghan incursions into Pakistan, but their first major deployment came during the war of 1965. By 1971, the SSG had grown to 3 battalions with 1 permanently stationed in East Pakistan[citation needed].

1971 India-Pakistan War

In 1971, SSG comprised three battalions of which one (3rd Commando Battalion) was stationed in East Pakistan. In one of the raids on an Indian artillery regiment during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, 1 Commando Battalion incapacitated number of their guns.[3]

1979-1988 Soviet-Afghan War

During Operation Magistral, it is alleged that the SSG came into regular contact with Soviet forces. One of these incidents was the Battle for Hill 3234, where a company of Soviet paratroopers engaged a force of Mujahideen believed to be SSG. The Mujahideen wore black uniforms with rectangular black-yellow-red stripes.[5][6] It is claimed by at least two sources that the Mujahideen were actually members of the SSG.[7] According to the Soviet estimates, the SSG lost over 200 men.

Another battle reported as having been fought between the Pakistanis and Soviet troops occurred in Kunar Province in March 1986. But the Russians claim that the battle was actually fought between the GRU 15th Spetsnaz Brigade and the Asama Bin Zaid regiment of the Afghan Mujahideen under Commander Assadullah, belonging to Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf's faction.[8]

Siachen and Kargil Wars

The SSG was also active on the eastern border with India and they have fought in Siachen.

Musa Company

In 1980, the SSG's Musa Company, which was originally formed in 1970 as a combat diver unit, was given the anti-terrorist operations role. Captain Sajjad, who later retired as a lieutenant colonel, was a salvage expert and had the intensive training of under water demolition. Musa Company was trained by British SAS advisers in mid-1981.[3]

Recent activities

Recently, SSG has been active in anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan's restive western borders with Afghanistan and fighting Islamic extremists in Pakistani cities such as the Lal Masjid siege[9] in the operation of generals headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Special Service Group (Navy) took part in the PNS mehran operation.

India believes that SSG unit led an attack across the Line of Control in January 2013 in which Indian soldiers were killed and beheaded.[10][11] Later in August 2013, a patrol of five Indian soldiers were killed 450 metres inside Indian territory, which India also believes was an action by the SSG.[12][13] These raids are part of cross border raids launched by both sides. Pakistan has accused India of beheading 12 Pakistani soldiers between 1999-2013.[14]

On 6 December 2014, a special team of SSG and light commandos tracked down and killed the Global Operations Chief of al-Qaeda Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah along with five other al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's South Waziristan


Military operations

Counter-terrorism operations

  • In September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by terrorists while it was refueling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill passengers, SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed one hijacker and captured the rest.[citation needed]
  • In February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations led nowhere and it was decided to free the hostages by force. The Pakistani authorities had somehow managed to inform the children of the impending raid.[20] The SSG commandos used a secondary explosion as a distraction and entered the room at the Afghan embassy where the hostages were being held, killing the three hijackers.[citation needed] The operation lasted about 20 seconds.[21]
  • In May 1998, three members of the Baloch terrorists took over a PIA Fokker plane because they were angry at the government for conducting nuclear tests in Balochistan. As negotiations dragged, SSG commandos rushed the plane and apprehended all 3 hijackers. None of the passengers were harmed during the assault.[22][23]
  • On 30 March 2009, SSG successfully participated in thwarting the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks.[24][25]
  • On 10 October 2009, militants attacked the Pakistan Military Headquarters, taking hostage 42 civil and military officials. SSG commandos rescued 39 hostages and killed 9 militants, capturing one. The militants have been linked to Ilyas Kashmiri being a leading Al Qaeda commander operating alongside Tehrik-e-Taliban. A total of six SSG commandos and three hostages were killed in the operation. As reported by ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) [2]. The operation was undertaken by SSG's Counter Terrorism Force.[26] Three more SSG commandos, injured during the operation, died in the hospital on 12 October.[27]
  • On 16 December 2014, SSG Commandos from the Zarrar Company were tasked with clearing an Army Public School which was raided by seven [28] Tahreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Terrorists in Peshawar. All Terrorists were eliminated and the school was cleared. Around 149 people, mostly Students aged between 12-16 were killed by the Terrorists. The school had a strength of about 1000, and due to SSG timely arrival, they were able to rescue about 840 peoples.[29]


SSG has eight battalions:[citation needed]

Each battalion consists of 700 men in four companies, with each company split into platoons and then into 10-man teams. Battalions are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels[citation needed].

Plus three independent commando companies:

  • Musa Company - Specializes in Amphibious Operations[citation needed]
  • Zarrar Company - Specializes in Counter-terrorism[citation needed]
  • Iqbal buland company - Specializes in signals and telecommunications.


SSG officers must have at least two years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for two-year assignments with the SSG; non-commissioned officers and enlisted men volunteer from other formations to serve permanently in the SSG[citation needed]. All trainees must participate in a nine-month SSG course at Cherat[citation needed]. The SSG course emphasizes physical conditioning, including a 36-mile march in 24 hours.[30] Following the SSG course, trainees must go through the airborne training to get their commando wings from the SSG Airborne School[citation needed]. The course lasts four weeks, with wings awarded after five day-jumps and three night-jumps[citation needed]. After the completion of the basic commando course, the newly inducted commandos are put through their paces in the advanced commando course which runs an additional 25 weeks. Only at the end of these two grueling phases are operators considered to be integral members of the SSG. The SSG recruits get trained in hand-to-hand combat training and very hard physical fitness training; only about 5% of recruits make it through to the Pakistan SSG due to the very tough training course.[citation needed]

Many in the SSG school are selected for additional specialist training. A HALO[citation needed] course is given at Peshawar with a "Skydiver" tab awarded after 25 freefall jumps. A "Mountain Warfare" qualification badge is given after completing a course at the Pakistan Military Academy kakul,Abbotabad[citation needed]. A "Combat Diver" badge is awarded for the course held by the Naval Special Service Group (SSGN) at Karachi[citation needed]. (Three classes of combat swimmers are recognized: 1st class to those completing an 18-mile swim, 2nd class to those finishing a 15-mile swim, and 3rd class for a 10-mile swim.) Due to the Siachen crisis,a High-Altitude Mountain Warfare School has been established at Khappalu to train the SSG and other Army units for operations on the Siachen Glacier.Other areas of the commando training include internal security, assault and small unit tactics, sniping, demolition, survival, languages, small arms familiarization, Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA), Close Quarter Battle tactics (CQB), Long Range Recce Patrol (LRRP), Martial arts, espionage, psychoanalytic training, and criminal psychology courses.[citation needed].

Interaction with other special forces

SSG conducts regular (bi-annual) exercises with the Turkish Special Forces which have been designated as the "Ataturk" series. The first of these exercises was held in December 1998. The Turkish force included 21 officers and 14 non-commissioned officers. The second exercise of this series was held in November 2000, while Atatürk-III concluded in September 2002.[citation needed]

During the 1980s and then into the 1990s, SSG held many similar training exercises with US Special Forces called "Inspired Venture"[citation needed]. These exercises were usually held during the early months of January and February with approximately 150 US troops. The exercises were focused on weapon familiarization and use, mountain-warfare along with tactics, raids and ambushes, and eventually airborne operations.[citation needed]

The SSG also conducts exercises with Chinese special forces. In 2006, China and Pakistan conducted an eight-day exercise called the Pakistan-China Joint Exercise Friendship-2006.[31]

SSG has also been reported to train with the Jordanian Royal Special Forces and Iranian Quds Force and conducts training for special forces of other Middle Eastern countries at Cherat[citation needed].


Components of the battalions are constantly rotated between Cherat, Attock, Tarbela and any other hot spots (such as Pakistan-India border or when Pakistani forces are deployed overseas as part of the UN peace keeping operations) in order to provide experience to the operators. The SSG are used to provide security to various vital points such as the strategic nuclear facilities in Pakistan. It is thought[by whom?] that a number of SSG operators are stationed in Saudi Arabia for the protection of the Saudi royal family. Many SSG officers and other ranks are routinely seconded to the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for clandestine and reconnaissance missions.[citation needed] SSG has planted some of their operatives under command of ISI within various civilian government and private institutions for various security purposes. The details of the operatives are highly classified. Most of the operatives of this "covert" division are planted in educational institutes..[citation needed]

Notable members

Lieutenant Colonel Moeen Qadir Khan, who belonged to 1 Commando(Ayub Company) was one of the best commandos. He is believed to be a record holder of SSG. His para-jumps are 2nd Highest with Brigadier TM's being the highest. He also remained as an instructor at the Para-Training School Peshawar. He lost a heal and ankle of his right feet and multiple fractures of the left feet in a landmine blast while serving in Dera Bugti ( 2003 )

Appearance and equipment


The commandos are distinguished by their insignia of maroon berets, a common color for airborne troops, with a silver metal tab on a light blue felt square with a dagger and lightning bolts, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of the SSG is similar to the US woodland pattern camouflage coat and pants. Other uniforms include camouflage and black dungarees (for the CT team).

SSGN (SSG Navy) is distinguished by a dark blue beret with three versions of the "fouled anchor" navy badge for officers, NCOs and enlisted men. A metal SSGN qualification badge featuring a vertical dagger superimposed over a midget submarine is worn over the left pocket on dress uniforms. Parachute wings are worn over the right pocket.

The SSW (Special Service Wing) is distinguished by maroon berets with PAF Officer, JCO or Airmen insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of SSW is olive drab camouflage. They also wear their special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .


SSG Main Rifle M4 carbine
SSG Assault Rifle Steyr AUG
SSG Sniper Rifle Barrett M82


Sub-machine guns

Assault rifles

Sniper rifles

Light Machine guns

Anti Tank Rocket Launchers

See also


  1. ^ "Top Ten Special Operations Forces in the World". Armed Forces Museum. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Army to preserve its own dignity and institutional pride: COAS". Dawn. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Singh Bajwa, Mandeep. "Pakistan Special Service Group". Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  4. ^ A.H. Amin "Interview with Brig (retd) Shamim Yasin Manto" Defence Journal, February 2002
  5. ^ "Клятва тридцати девяти". Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. A. Oliynik. Krasnaya Zvezda, 29 October 1988. (in Russian)
  6. ^ "Афганистан: бой у высоты 3234". Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. D. Meshchaninov. (in Russian)
  7. ^ My Jihad: One American's Journey Through the World of Usama Bin Laden--as a Covert Operative for the American Government. Aukai Collins. ISBN 0-7434-7059-1; Carey Schofield, 'The Russian Elite,' Greenhill/Stackpole, 1993, p.121. ISBN 1-85367-155-X.
  8. ^ Lester W. Grau & Ali Ahmed Jalali, Forbidden Cross-Border Vendetta: Spetsnaz Strike into Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine., Journal of Slavic Military Studies, December 2005, p.1-2 Referenced copy was obtained via the Foreign Military Studies Office website
  9. ^ Witte, Griff (2010-08-22). "Mosque siege ends, and grim cleanup begins". San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. ^ Joseph, Josy (10 January 2013). "Pak cross-LoC raid: Brutality similar to 2000 strike by Ilyas Kashmiri". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Second beheading in two years by Pakistan". 10 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  12. ^ Rajat Pandit (8 August 2013). "Pakistan's special commando force behind LoC attack". Times of India. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Kashmir: Five Indian soldiers killed in shooting". BBC. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  14. ^ http://www.dawn.com/news/782394
  15. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News". Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  16. ^ [1][dead link]
  17. ^ Secret U.S. Unit Trains Commandos in Pakistan, Eric Schmit and Jane Perlez, New York Times, 22 February 2009
  18. ^ CIA Pakistan Campaign is Working Director Say, Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, New York Times, 26 February 2009, A15
  19. ^ Gerstein, Josh. "Panetta warns against politicization". NBC New York. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  20. ^ "Afghan Gunmen Hijack a School Bus in Pakistan". AP. 21 February 1994. Retrieved 17 February 2016 – via The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Islamabad reviews Afghan refugee policy after hijack". News Straits Times. Islamabad. 21 February 1994. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  22. ^ Dead belonged to company deployed at Lal Masjid, Jamia Hafsa’ By Javed Iqbal & Mushtaq Yusufzai The News, Pakistan 14 September 2007
  23. ^ Bomb in Pakistan Kills at Least 15 From Elite Unit By SALMAN MASOOD and ISMAIL KHAN 14 September 2007
  24. ^ Faisal Ali, Mohammad (2009-03-30). "13 killed, 100 injured as forces recapture Manawan academy". Dawn TV. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  25. ^ Nawaz, Hamid (2009-03-30). "Lahore under attack again: 12 dead, 90 injured in bloody siege at police academy, three gunmen captured". Aaj TV. Archived from the original on 2016-10-02. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  26. ^ "Pakistan commandos rescue 39 hostages, three killed". Reuters. 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
  27. ^ "Senior officers were main target of GHQ attack". The News. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2009-10-13. [dead link]
  28. ^ "Gen Asim Bajwa". Twitter. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  29. ^ Sophia Saifi and Greg Botelho, CNN (16 December 2014). "Taliban school attack: 145 killed in Pakistan siege - CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  30. ^ Tomas Hirst. "The 9 most elite special forces in the world". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  31. ^ "Joint Anti-terror Military Exercise Concludes". Xinhua News Agency.
  32. ^ "Brig. TM (shaheed) of Special Service Group". Paklinks.com. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  33. ^ "Biography at Banglapedia". Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 2012-04-09.

Recommended reading

  • Unlikely Beginnings by General A. O. Mitha. Oxford University Press Pakistan. (Founder of Cherat)
  • SSG Tarikh ke Aine Main (SSG history) by Lt Col (Retd) Ghulam Jilani Khan, published by Headquarters SSG, Cherat, 2004. (in Urdu)

Sources and external links

  • Special Service Group page on the official Pakistan Army Museum website
  • More info and pictures on SSG
  • Navy SSG information
  • Orbit on SSG
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