EKAM, Greek Special Police Unit (Photo: Hellenic Police)
Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (Greek: EKAM) is the Greek counter-terrorism unit of the Hellenic Police. Its origins can be traced back to 1984 and it is the most distinguished and formidable part of the Greek Police. The EKAM force is based in Athens but has also a subunit in Thessaloniki.
Originally the total active manpower of the Unit is approximately 200 men. Doubtless, the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit is the elite of the Hellenic Police Force. The excellent and extremely hard training in combination of the highest level of professionalism and well-organized teamwork make the unit to respond to any special and high-risk security case with great success and to handle effectively in any serious and dangerous situation.
Physical ability, marksmanship, endurance tactics, and communication skills on the battlefield are the main characteristics of the Unit. EKAM men go where other troops fear to tread, scoping out potential threats and their professionalism is that distinguish the best.
The Special Anti-terrorist unit operates all around Greece and abroad whenever is deemed necessary. It has confronted challenges such as hostage situations in buildings and vehicles, high-risk arrests, hijackings, rescue operations, and other exceptionally dangerous missions, providing also assistance to the major Greek police services in order to combat organized crime.
Training and selection
EKAM is a voluntary unit and is composed of policemen who have volunteered to perform special tasks and service.
To be a member of EKAM, the candidate needs to meet basic requirements and is specially selected. First and foremost, each candidate has to be an active police service member for at least 2 years in order to be eligible to apply for the Unit.
Additionally, candidates must demonstrate superior physical stamina and marksmanship. Finally, the candidate must be able to pass a series of psychological tests in order to check their suitability for service in a high-stakes environment.
Unit motto: “Always ready…..…always there…… no mission too difficult…….no sacrifice too great”
All eligible candidates follow a 2-month training program (Selection School) through rigorous and highly specialized training exercises designed to weed out those who can’t hit their exacting standards.
Missions and Specialties
EKAM law enforcement unit leads missions that could include or could concern:
Terrorists and organized criminal attacks
Hostage rescue/Hostage situations
The arrest of dangerous or mentally disordered armed or barricaded persons
Countering attacks involving weapons of mass destruction (chemical – radiological – biological –nuclear CBRN
Bus, Train and Aircraft Hijacking
Support and participation when is asked to rescue operations in inaccessible or dangerous areas, as well as to evacuate victims of major natural or technological disasters or major accidents
Structure of the Unit
The Unit comprised of:
Special Intervention teams
Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Specialists (CBRN)
Climbers / Rappelers
Some of the best-known operations of the EKAM Unit
In June 2002 and in February 2003 the Unit has participated decisively in the arrest and in the escort of key members of November 17 and ELA (Revolutionary People’s Struggle), the worst terrorist organizations in Greece committing attacks against Greek citizens and also American, Turkish and British officials “targets”.
In February 2013: Four anarchists were arrested in Northern Greece accused of conducting double robberies and also allegedly tied to terrorist activities
In June 2015: Two outrageous bank robbers thought to have been involved in numerous bank robberies and believed to have been accomplices of the most wanted criminals were emerged to surrender by EKAM forces in the area of Thessaly in Greece
In May 2017, a female jailed wanted, the partner of the most wanted terrorist in Greece, leader of the Revolutionary Struggle was arrested by EKAM Unit.
In October 2017 the unit arrested an anarchist, a member of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire for sending parcel bombs to various European Union officials and institutions, including a former Prime Minister of Greece.
It is should be highlighted that the period from 2014 to 2018 the Unit has successfully achieved to arrest several terrorists and their accomplices conducting numerous operations.
Bus and Aircraft Hijacking
In November 1999: An armed Albanian man who hijacked a bus has been killed by a sniper and all the hostages were freed safely
In November 2000: A Greek bus carrying more than 30 Japanese holidaymakers was hijacked by a Greek gunman who finally arrested by EKAM forces
In March 2003: The Unit successfully dealt with an incident aboard the air carrier Airbus Α-130, which had been hijacked, while flying from Istanbul to Ankara and ended up at the Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” where the hijacker arrested.
In December 2004: Two men armed with guns and explosives hijacked a bus but finally surrendered to EKAM men
Other difficult and extremely dangerous operations
In November 2007: Due to the shooting and injury of police officers in the line of duty by criminal and drug gangs in a mountainous village on Crete island, the EKAM assault teams scoured the village for weapons and drugs, deployed for several months on the island achieving numerous arrests of criminals and suspects.
In July 2013: After 3 months of the manhunt for the eleven Albanian inmates escaped from a Greek prison – after a bloody all-night shootout with guards in March 2013 – the majority of them were arrested and three of them were mortally wounded by EKAM unit.
In May 2018: a notorious and unscrupulous villain of the Albanian mafia accused of contract killing was arrested by EKAM forces.
EKAM officers have permanent presence for the protection of officials at high risk in all major events of the Country, such as the European Union Presidency, the Summit meetings, the global or international sport event (e.g. the important and major role in the security of the Olympic and Paralympics games organized in Greece from June since October 2004) , the visits of the Heads of States (e.g. key role of the unit in the framework of the high level security measures taken for the visit of Russian president Vladimir Putin in May 2016 and the visit of President of United States Barack Obama in November 2016 )
Special Anti-Terrorist Unit is a member of Atlas Network, that consisting of special police units of 28 member states of European Union. The unit is in constant cooperation with special international units abroad such as New Scotland Yard / SO19, GEO Spain, RAID France, SEK Berlin Germany, Cobra Austria, YAMAM Israel, F.B.I etc.
The unit participates frequently both in transnational training – exercises and competitions in order to exchange experiences and best practices. Indicative the Unit participates annually to Warrior competition organized at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre (KASOTC) demonstrating one of the best results.
May 2018: The Greek Team was placed 5th at the end of the competition and achieved the highest score from all European countries.
May 2017: EKAM team took the 3rd place in two of the events and was placed 5th at the end of the competition
May 2016: The Greek Team was placed 8th at the end of the competition