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Britain’s Acronyms Of Terror – General Frank Kitson And The MRF, SRU And FRU

The British law lecturer and author Adeyinka Makinde has written an interesting piece for the website Global Research, touching upon the early career of Frank Kitson, a key strategist behind Britain’s historical “dirty war” in Ireland. The ambitious London-born officer eventually rose to one of the highest military ranks in the United Kingdom, serving as the Commander-in-Chief, UK Land Forces, with a fistful of honorary titles to his name, mostly relating to various “orders” of the British Empire. However in this country he is best known as the man behind such notorious groups as the MRF (Military Reaction Force), the SRU (Special Reconnaissance Unit) and the FRU (Force Research Unit), anodyne acronyms for a number of related or successive British death squads operating in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland during the so-called “Troubles”. Despite attempts by various parties to bring him to book in recent years, notably among the victims of his duplicitous tactic of running pro-UK “gangs” and “counter-gangs”, General Kitson has so far escaped legal censure, the authorities in Britain going to extraordinary lengths to keep him out of harms way. Or the witness box.

Adeyinka Makinde points out that Kitson:

“…was deeply involved in what are now universally acknowledged to have been ‘dirty wars’ fought by the British Army in Malaya, Kenya and Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, he initiated a covert intelligence military organisation known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF) which carried out missions that effectively amounted to state-sanctioned assassinations. He also had under his charge the Parachute Regiment’s Support Company which played a crucial role in the 1972 massacre of protesting civilians known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.

…a key plank of Kitson’s formula for waging asymmetric warfare was the concept of the ‘counter-gang’ or ‘pseudo-gang’.

It was a development from the ‘government gangs’ strategy of an earlier British army officer named Orde Wingate who successfully implemented a counter-terror policy against Ethiopian Shiftas in British Sudan and a counter-insurgency in British-ruled Palestine during the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939.

Kitson’s idea of a counter-gang consisted of members of the counter-insurgent army and ‘turned’ members of the guerrilla force. The intelligence-driven rationale of the concept meant that the guerrillas had to be infiltrated by traitors and information collated and stored in a large database of information.

Aside from infiltration, Kitson accepted Wingate’s tactic of imitating the modus operandi of the irregulars and taking the fight to them. Infiltration and imitation by the parallel gang provided possibilities for sowing confusion in both the guerrilla-gang and the wider population by launching ‘false flag’ operations designed to discredit them. As a former MRF soldier explained in a BBC Panorama documentary Britain’s Secret Terror Force which was broadcast in 2013, “We were not there to act like an Army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

The combination of growing intelligence on the gang resulting in arrest or compromise as informers and government agents together with psychological operations which demoralise its membership and denude its capabilities would, Kitson theorized, ultimately subjugate an insurgent force.

Kitson’s view of insurgency also stressed the importance of integrating the military effort with a flexible legal background, the resources of the media and political action to provide a favourable outcome to the conflict.

This doctrine formed the basis of the strategy employed by the British Army in countering the IRA during ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, in the early stages by the use of British Army personnel, the aforementioned MRF, as a counter-gang, and later by the use and manipulation of loyalist terror groups via military intelligence organisations such as the Special Reconnaissance Unit (SRU) and the Force Research Unit (FRU).

…actions by MRF units such as drive-by shootings which could be attributed to loyalist paramilitary gangs, were designed to draw the IRA into a fight with rival Protestant paramilitary organisations and so divert the IRA from attacking British troops.

Furthermore, targeting and shooting dead IRA guerrillas and inflicting civilian casualties was designed to show that the IRA was vulnerable and that the Roman Catholic community could not rely on the organisation for protection.”

There is much more in the article, as it summarises the conjoined military, political, legal and press tactics pursued by Britain in its twilight “empire wars”, from Kenya to Ireland.

Speaking of “false flag” operations, John O’Neill has a lengthy post on the so-called Irish Freedom Fighters (IFF), a wholly mysterious and possibly wholly fictitious guerrilla grouping which carried out various gun and bomb attacks in the Six Counties from 1975 to 1986, some of the worse years of the northern conflict. The intermittent nature of its operations, and the questionable nature of its targets, leaves more questions than answers. No doubt some of those answers exist in the military archives of the British Armed Forces as they relate to their war-fighting deployment in Ireland from 1969 to 2005 (or later). However with many of those files being placed under previously unprecedented government orders sealing them for nearly a century or more we’re unlikely to discover the truth any time soon.

[Thanks to ASF reader, Jim, for the heads-up on the Adeyinka Makinde article]

3 comments on “Britain’s Acronyms Of Terror – General Frank Kitson And The MRF, SRU And FRU

  1. I will look at the linked piece this week, thanks for the heads up.

    British Intelligence and their involvement in the “Dirty War” is very much circles-within-circles-within-circles. As well as a complete failure to communicate across departments and agencies.

    One thing which is still unclear is how the Provisional IRA acquired Glover’s “Future Terrorist Trends” in the late 1970s. Was it really skill and luck, or was it leaked? And, if so, why and by whom?


  2. Denis the menace

    they are having a few squaddies put on trial to protect the senior ones responsible for these war crimes, how anyone one believes the British Political class is beyond me. I see today in the UK Independent that after signing anti- cluster bomb manufacturing and sales they went ahead and sold them to the Saudi’s in their present war in Yemen.


  3. Low intensity operations? I read it in ’88. I also heard that “when it was quiet the Freds (MRF) would slot either a nationalist or unionist just to liven it up”.


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