The Columbian Special Forces now have a long and very successful history, but in November of 1985, when 30 heavily armed terrorists stormed Bogota’s Palace of Justice thing were quite different. The terrorist from M-19 (Movimiento 19 de Abril, or 19th of April Movement) captured around 500 hostages. Some reports indicated that M-19 members were trained by Palestinian PLO. Among the hostages were several members of the Council of State and Supreme Court.
Then, unprepared for such situations, regular Colombian military units assaulted the Palace and freed many of the hostages. However, in the hail of bullets and explosions, over fifty hostages had been killed. Among killed hostages were also eleven members of the Supreme Court. During the operation, Colombian military killed nearly twenty of the terrorists, but eleven soldiers had lost their lives in the operation and dozens were wounded.
Agrupacion De Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas (Urban Counter-Terrorism Special Forces Group) or AFEUR was formed on April 8, 1986 in response to this incident. AFEUR is a small military unit among the ranks of Colombian Army. They have not more than 100 operators. Their members are drawn from all of the Colombian armed forces including both, Army and law enforcement. AFEUR is referred as a unit for special operations and they are tasked with hostage rescue and VIP protection. It is organized into six fifteen-man squads each consisting of two officers and thirteen operators. AFEUR is under the direct command of the top commander of the Colombian Armed Forces (Comandante de las Fuerzas Armadas).
The candidates for AFEUR are going through a rigorous seven-day selection phase, and those who successfully meet all requirements and pass the selection phase are sent to a six-month training phase in Facatativa, near of Bogota. Training focuses on various hostage rescue situations (buildings, aircraft, buses, ships, and trains). Fast roping and rappelling skills are covered, as well as sniping, EOD ( Explosive Ordinance Disposal), and heliborne assault skills. Due to their VIP protection mission, members of AFEUR are also trained in high speed and offensive driving.
For example, members of AFEUR are protecting the Colombian President when he travels across the country and abroad. They also provided close protection for various VIP guests, including US presidents Bill Clinton (Army group) and George W. Bush visits to Cartagena, in 2000, 2004 respectively. They also provided the second security ring to President Bush’s visit to Bogotá in 2007.
This unit answers directly to the Comando General de las Fuerzas Armadas (Armed Forces Joint Staff), and they are allowed to use any military air transportation under the control of Colombian military to guarantee mobility, and to use any weapon or additional equipment as required to accomplish their missions.
Their gear and equipment include most sophisticated and modern equipment and weapons used by similar units worldwide. That includes various pistols (Beretta 9mm, Browning 9mm, Glock, assault rifles including M16-A2, submachine guns (HK MP-5), light machine guns (M60, Galil).