In 1972, Egyptian President Anwar as-Sadat exiled more than 30,000 Soviet advisors and began moving towards peace with Israel and closer ties with the west. Egyptian intelligence began receiving word that groups such as the Abu Nidal Faction and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had vowed to take violent action against Egyptian targets and people. Because of this threat, the Egyptian Army was tasked with creating a unit capable of counter-terrorist and hostage rescue operations.
In 1977, Egypt’s Task Force 777 was created. Initially, this unit was staffed by 3 officers, four NCOs, and forty operators. Soon after, they were thrust into battle unprepared in the Libyan desert. They had no order of battle, no experience and little organization.
In 1978 they were dispatched to assault an airplane hijacked by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and flown to Cyprus. Having only an hour to plan while in the air they were unprepared. Then, the Egyptian Ministry of Defense neglected to inform the Cyprus authorities of TF 777’s imminent arrival. The local police and Guard units thought the assaulting commandos were terrorist reinforcements and took TF 777 under fire. An 80 minute firefight that cost the lives of 15 777 operators and several Cyprots ensued.
TF 777’s most notorious operation though, was the botched rescue attempt at Malta. Palestine Radicals, angered over Egypt’s failure to protect the fleeing Achille Lauro terrorists, seized Egyptair flight 648 (ironically, the same airplane that had been used to transport the Achille Lauro terrorists out of Egypt) and flew it to Luga Int. Airport in Malta. This time, Egypt made sure that the foreign government new TF 777 was coming.
The members of TF 777 however, made several errors. First, they failed to perform any surveillance of the ground situation. Second, they failed to debrief hostages that had survived a botched execution attempt. Third, they didn’t study blueprints of the Boeing 737. Fourth, they did not have stun grenades. Lastly, TF 777 operators elected to blow a hole in the roof to gain entry to the 737.
In order to stun the terrorists and gain time for operators to enter through the hole in the roof, the explosive charge was increased beyond recommended levels. The blast was so powerful six rows of seats were knocked loose and nearly twenty passengers were killed. Then members who entered though the doors began throwing smoke grenades and firing indiscriminately. Snipers positioned on top of rescue vehicles began firing at fleeing civilians. In all, the botched operation killed 57 hostages.
Understandably, Unit 777 has kept a low profile since this incident. They have been involved in Egypt’s civil war against the “Brotherhood” and have lost several operators in this conflict. Because of the secrecy now surrounding the unit, the exact weaponry used today is not known. However, because of close contact with the US military, who supplies much of their training, it is reasonable to assume they are using much of the same weapons US teams use.
Few years ago unit 777 carried out successfully a confidential maritime operation into Haifa Israeli harbor to release a detained Egyptian ship with its crew which was accused by the authorities of smuggling weapons to Palestinians. That operation led to a tensioned political low profile crisis between both countries, but was solved later on. It is believed that the United States SFOD, French RAID, the former SEAL Team Six, and German KSK/GIGN have some sort of joint training with the Unit 777.
“The Illustrated Guide to the World’s Top Counter-Terrorist Forces” by Samuel M. Katz