EKAM: A Greece’s answer to the terror

Stavroula Mamoulaki

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 also has a subunit in Thessaloniki.

Initially, the total active manpower of the Unit was approximately 200 men. Doubtless, the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit is the elite of the Hellenic Police Force. In a combination of the highest level of professionalism and well-organized teamwork, the excellent and extremely hard training makes the unit respond to any special and high-risk security case and effectively handle 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 distinguishes them best.

EKAM is a prime Greece special counter-terrorism unit
Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (Greek: EKAM) is the Greek counter-terrorism unit of the Hellenic Police. (Photo: Greek Police)

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. It also provides assistance to the major Greek police services to combat organized crime.

Training and selection

EKAM is a voluntary unit composed of police officers who have volunteered to perform special tasks and services. 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 two years to be eligible to apply for the Unit.

EKAM operators during training
EKAM operators during training (Photo: Greek Police)

Additionally, candidates must demonstrate superior physical stamina and marksmanship. Finally, the candidate must be able to pass a series of psychological tests to check their suitability for service in a high-stakes environment.

“Always ready…..…always there…… no mission too difficult…….no sacrifice too great”

EKAM’s motto

All eligible candidates follow a 2-month training program (Selection School) through rigorous and highly specialized training exercises 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
  • materials)
  • Bus, Train, and Aircraft Hijacking
  • Armed Kidnapping
  • Protecting VIP’S

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)
  • Snipers
  • Breachers
  • Paratroopers
  • Divers
  • Climbers / Rappelers
  • Skiers
  • Medics
  • Dog Handlers

Some of the best-known operations of the EKAM Unit

Terrorism dismantling

In June 2002 and in February 2003, the Unit has participated decisively in the arrest and 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 allegedly tied to terrorist activities.

In June 2015, two outrageous bank robbers were thought to have been involved in numerous bank robberies. They are believed to have been accomplices of the most wanted criminals who emerged to surrender by EKAM forces in Thessaly in Greece.

EKAM operators brandishing their guns in front of the armored vehicle with EKAM insignia
Van with EKAM insignia (Photo: Hellenic Police)

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 should be highlighted that from 2014 to 2018, the Unit has successfully arrested several terrorists and their accomplices conducting numerous operations.

Bus and Aircraft Hijacking

In November 1999: An armed Albanian man who hijacked a bus was killed by a sniper, and EKAM freed all the hostages safely.

In November 2000, a Greek bus carrying more than 30 Japanese holidaymakers was hijacked by a Greek gunman who was 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 was 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 three months of the search for the eleven Albanian inmates who 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.

EKAM Operators During Annual Warrior Competition at KASOTC, Jordan
EKAM Operators During Annual Warrior Competition at KASOTC, Jordan (Photo: Hellenic Police)

In May 2018: a notorious and unscrupulous villain of the Albanian mafia accused of contract killing was arrested by EKAM forces.

High-risk protection

EKAM officers have a 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 sports events (e.g., the important and significant 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., the 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 )

Transnational cooperation

Special Anti-Terrorist Unit is a member of Atlas Network, consisting of special police units of 28 member states of the 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, EKO Cobra Austria, YAMAM Israel, FBI HRT, etc.

The unit frequently participates in transnational training – exercises, and competitions to exchange experiences and best practices. Indicative, the Unit participates annually in the 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 of 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

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