Since the Croatian war for independence, Croatia has developed their own special forces on both law enforcement and military level which took part in their War for independence. Today, Croatia is a member of NATO and their special forces are still organized on both levels.

In their case, special forces and special operations forces are law enforcement and military units trained to conduct special operations. NATO defines special operations as “military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained, and equipped forces, manned with selected personnel, using unconventional tactics, techniques, and modes of employment”.

Croatian special forces may perform some of the following functions: airborne operations, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, covert ops, direct action, hostage rescue, high-value targets/manhunting, intelligence operations, mobility operations, and unconventional warfare.

Law Enforcement

When we speak about law enforcement units, the prime unit is Anti-Terrorist Unit Lučko (Croatian: Antiteroristička jedinica Lučko, ATJ Lučko). It is an elite Anti-Terrorist Unit of the Croatian Police stationed in Lučko near Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Like all law enforcement units in the country, it is under direct command of the Ministry of the Interior. The unit is similarly organized as FBI Hostage Rescue Team (FBI HRT) and their training is something between SWAT and military commando training.

24th anniversary of ATJ Lucko (Photo: CroPix)

The unit was established on September 7, 1990 and was the first Croatian fighting unit in the Croatian War of Independence.It was also the only unit of Croatian Special Police Forces which took part in military operations at that time. During the course of the Croatian War of Independence, 13 officers were killed and 52 wounded in the unit of approximately 350 members at the time.

Military

The Special Operations Battalion (Croatian: Bojna za specijalna djelovanja), or popularly BSD is prime special operation unit of Croatian army which was founded on 8 September 2000 when the Special Combat Skills Center from Šepurine and the 1st Croatian Guards Brigade (Croatian: 1. hrvatski gardijski zdrug, a component of the 1st Croatian Guards Corps) were amalgamated. It ceased to exist in 2014 when it was transformed into Special Operations Battalion(Croatia).

Members of Croatia’s Special Operations Battalion (Photo: CroPix)

The members of Special Operations Command can be recognized by their green berets with unit badges over the right eye. Their symbol is a snake, so they are sometimes referred as “Cobras” although their insignia shows a Horned viper which is the most dangerous snake to be found in Croatia (Balkans) and in mainland Europe.