Nationella Insatsstyrkan: A Sweden’s prime counter-terrorism unit

Nationella Insatsstyrkan operators during an intervention at the Libyan embassy in Stockholm in 2011
Nationella Insatsstyrkan operators during an intervention at the Libyan embassy in Stockholm in 2011 (Photo: Sweden Police)

Nationella Insatsstyrkan, NI is Swedish National Task Force formerly known as ONI (Ordningspolisens Nationella Insatsstyrka). Formed in 1991, the unit distinguished itself as Sweden’s primary counter-terrorism unit, but despite they have jurisdiction in the whole country, the need for the unit has been limited so far.

Introduction

NI is designated as the main counter-terrorism unit in Sweden. They are responsible for handling extraordinarily difficult or life-threatening criminal situations, such as terrorism, hostage situations, armed kidnapping and serving high-risk arrest warrants in cities too remote for Piketen in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö to handle. NI is similar to other units of this type in Europe such as Germany’s GSG-9,  French GIGN, British SCO19, Irish ERU. Their structure and training are also related to the FBI HRT in the United States.

Standard operating procedures

The unit is supported by local SWAT teams attached to the local police departments in Sweden. That means that in the case of emergency, local SWAT teams are first responders and the ones responsible for preparing intelligence and sealing the place until NI comes.

Nationella insatsstyrkan (National Task Force) Sweden
Sweden’s Nationella insatsstyrkan (National Task Force) operators brandishing theirs Heckler and Koch MP5s (Photo: Sweden Police)

Despite they are regular domestic police unit, NI has been involved in some jobs abroad.  In 2006, NI officers were deployed to Lebanon to help evacuate Swedish citizens during the war between Hezbollah and Israel. NI officers have also been deployed with Special Team Six in Kosovo to EULEX mission.

Organizational structure

Nationella Insatsstyrkan operators work full-time in the force. They used to work two weeks and then have two weeks of regular police work, but as the need for them increased they changed it to full-time to cope with the demand and the need for more training. NI has around 50 members divided into 8 groups:

  • 2 assault groups (Alpha, Beta)
  • 2 support groups (Charlie, Delta)
  • 1 demolition group (Echo)
  • 1 sniper group (Fox)
  • 1 sniper support group (Golf)
  • 1 scuba divers group (Hotel)

Weaponry and gear

The assault groups are mainly armed with various Heckler and Koch MP5 models and Sig-Sauer P228s for personal defense. The sniper support group uses the L96A1 7.62mm sniper rifle. Personal body armor is mostly from indigenous Swedish origin and has been battle proven, by Swedish soldiers who took part in UN missions.

Among their weapon arsenal, there are also assault rifles (Heckler & Koch G36) and various types of shotguns. According to pictures taken during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Stockholm in September 2013, NI also has the new Sako TRG M10 Sniper Weapon System in caliber .338 Lapua Magnum in their inventory.

Nationella insatsstyrkan (NI) uses special type of vehicles (
Nationella insatsstyrkan (NI) uses a special type of vehicles (Photo: Sweden Police)

The unit also distinguishes themselves from other Swedish police by a wide variety of uniforms, including standard Army woodland camouflage.

Training and selection

Nationella Insatsstyrkan’s tactical training is not different from other West-European counter-terrorist teams. Most of their training exercise deal with urban hostage rescue. In addition to assaulters, they have a negotiation team that attempts to first gain the hostages’ release through peaceful means.

Part of their training is done with the Swedish Armed Forces. Several of the members are former members of elite military units, and the Nationella Insatsstyrkan is described by some as a paramilitary unit within the Swedish police force.

NI often train with the special forces unit of the Armed Forces, the Special Operations Task Group.

To be eligible for Nationella Insatsstyrkan, the candidate is required to have at least 2 years of distinguished service in the police, a clean criminal record, and be able to pass a series of tests:

  • Physical stamina
  • Marksmanship
  • Non-predisposition for several types of phobias, such as fear of cramped spaces, heights or water
  • Psychological fitness
  • Deep interview
  • 10 days in the field

Nationella Insatsstyrkan’s headquarters

They are based in Stockholm and under the direct control of the Prime Minister, who directs them in matters of terrorist actions against Sweden. If the armed response is used to free a hostage from the terrorists, it can only be ordered by the Prime Minister of Sweden or if the life of the hostage is in mortal danger. Transportation of NI members is carried out by the Swedish Air Force, or by other branches of the Services.

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