Rescuing a hostage is always taking a substantial risk. It is going into a hostile situation knowing that the enemy has hostages that they can use to their advantage. A hostage rescue can turn badly quickly with the loss of hostages or rescuers in the blink of an eye. In fact, many hostage rescue attempts do not have happy endings. Those that do involve planning and plenty of luck.
The following are the some of the most daring and dangerous hostage rescues in history and while they do save hostages they rarely did so without cost.
1. Operation Barras 2000
On August 25th, 2000 a patrol of British soldiers, that was returning from a visit with Jordanian peacekeepers that were part of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, were ambushed by heavily armed rebels. 11 soldiers and one Sierra Leone Army Liaison were taken prisoner and moved to Gberi Bana. The British Army attempted to get the hostages back through peaceful negotiation with the rebels who were known as the West Side Boys.
Five of the hostages were released through negotiations with the West Side Boys but afterward the demands became too unrealistic. The British Army saw no way forward with negotiations and decided to rescue the hostages. The Army feared that the hostages might be killed or moved which required fast action. Two villages were attacked at the same time, Gberi Bana, where the soldiers were, and Magbeni, as a diversionary tactic.
The 150 troopers were flown in by helicopter and fast roped down into the base under fire. It was during this initial stage that the British suffered their only casualty. The troops found the British soldiers as they shouted “British Army.” The Sierra Leone liaison was found in a squalid pit where he had been beaten and starved. Within 20 minutes the soldiers and their liaison were rescued and flown out by helicopter. The mission continued for another hour and a half. 22 civilians were also rescued while a 23rd civilian was killed in the crossfire.
By the end of the operation the British had 18 wounded soldiers, one seriously wounded, and one soldier killed. Every hostage but the one killed in crossfire was safely evacuated. The West Side Boys had 18 deaths and 25 members were taken prisoner. The mission was heralded as a success and proved Britain’s capability for mission in Sierra Leone.