#HistoricalDates | GIS - 46 years of fighting terrorism and more

The GIS - Special Intervention Group was officially founded on February 6 1978. The previous year, however, on October 24 1977, the Minister of the Interior at that time, Mr. Francesco Cossiga, issued a directive for the establishment of operational units for special anti-terrorist operations. Those were the years of the terrorism emergency, the so-called Years of Lead, and a new and more effective tool was needed to counter terrorist threats to the State, while ensuring public order and security. Indeed, on this date forty-six years ago, the GIS was already to all intents and purposes a department dedicated to interventions aimed at countering terrorism. Let's retrace their milestones together, to pay tribute to the extraordinary work of these men.

Key Points

• Counterterrorism

• Special Force

• GIS today

2’ reading


The first men of the GIS were taken from the 1st Carabinieri Parachute Battalion "Tuscania" (which later became Regiment) which, even today, is the preferential basin for the selection of new elements. Subsequently, in 1984, the Minister of the Interior decreed the GIS as the only Special Intervention Unit or Un.I.S. Defense anti-terrorism in favor of the Ministry of the Interior: they, in fact, could act both in the field of judicial police-public order and in the military, as well as the 1st Carabinieri Parachute Regiment "Tuscania" and the 13th Carabinieri Regiment "Friuli Venezia Giulia".

Pic 1: GIS and 1° the 1st Parachute Rgt. "Tuscania" during the Watan exercise in Doha (Qatar), a test organized for the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 to increase the skills of the Qatari security forces and encourage the exchange of experiences and procedures.

The spectacular debut of the GIS took place in Trani (in the region of Apulia, South Italy) on December 29, 1980, when a revolt broke out in the local prison led by some terrorists. GIS quickly lowered themselves from helicopters onto the roof of the building and in a few minutes, without bloodshed, freed the 29 hostages and regained control of the prison. Also in those years, the GIS carried out repeated interventions to combat organized crime with the release of numerous hostages; among them, Patrizia Tacchella - an eight-year-old girl kidnapped in January 1990 in Stallavena di Grezzana in the province of Verona and freed on April 17 of the same year - and Raffaele Alessi - seventeen years old kidnapped in her father's apartment in Segrate in the province of Milan by two Albanian criminals and freed a few hours later, on January 16, 1995. Without forgetting the conduct of high-risk police operations and, in general, extreme situations where the GIS has continued to express its qualities of readiness and versatility, such as targeted interventions against organized crime with the capture of dangerous fugitives and mafia bosses; among these, the capture of the mafia boss Gerlandino Messina in Agrigento (Sicily) on October 23 2010, wanted for mafia association and various murders who at the time of the raid was in possession of two loaded and ready-to-use pistols; without forgetting the capture of the recently deceased Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro, in collaboration with the operators of the ROS and the Legion Carabinieri Sicilia.

Pic 2: Screen from a footage of Matteo Messina Denaro arrest

Special Force

The GIS has also continued to conduct, both in Italy and abroad, escort and protection services in favor of the highest Italian and foreign visiting State officials. Since 1997 the GIS has been engaged as the "tip of the spear" of the Carabinieri in the most complex and delicate foreign operational countries such as Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq. Since 2004, the GIS has qualified from a Counter-Terrorism unit to a "Special Force" TIER 1 of the Defense General Staff: therefore, the activation of the unit for out-of-area operations is requested directly by the "COFS" (Joint Command for Special Forces Operations).

Pic 3: Anti-terrorist exercise with assault using special vehicles equipped with aerial ladders

Among the demanding foreign operations and alongside the other Italian special forces, we remember the deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, Lebanon and Niger. In particular, in Afghanistan the men of the GIS were part of Task Force 45, together with units of the 9th Parachute Assault Regiment "Col Moschin", COMSUBIN and the 17th Raiders Wing of the Italian Air Force; more recently, the tasks of protecting the Italian Embassy in Kiev and participating in the investigations into war crimes of the International Criminal Court in The Hague have been added to the the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

GIS today

Another historic date for the unit is May 22, 2020, when the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella definitively sealed the identity of a combat unit by granting the War Flag.

Pic 4: On 22 May 2020, the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella presented the War Flag to the GIS: in the photo, the awarding of the decoration of the Military Order of Italy.

As of today, in Italy and under the direction of the General Command of the Carabinieri, the GIS represents the heart of the anti-terrorism intervention unit, capable of deploying in a few hours and throughout the national territory a Special Intervention Unit up to the level of the Anti-Terrorism Tactical Group, which can be increased to an inter-force-interagency measure from tens to hundreds of soldiers: in fact, in addition to the GIS, the forces of the 1st Carabinieri Parachute Regiment "Tuscania", the API - First Intervention Units, the SOS - Operational Support Teams, other Police Units of the mobile organization of the Carabinieri can intervene in support of it. Among the group's internal specializations, there is also a Negotiator Group made up of operators with strong communication skills, particular psycho-physical balance and mastery of foreign languages who, after a rigorous selection, participate in negotiation courses abroad.

Pic 5: Among the specializations of the department there is also the figure of the "negotiator", essential in case of hostage-taking.

The department's motto "In Singuli Virtute Aciei Vis" (from latin: "in the abilities of the individual the group draws strength"), reminds us that the success factor is found in the virtues of each man and, in the face of new hybrid threats, the department continues to adapt and develop new doctrines, skills and means so that it can be ready and decisive in future challenges.

Pic 6: The GIS on parade during the Italian Republic Day celebration, on June 2nd

Pic 7: GIS official logo

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