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Flechas

Flechas

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Flechas were a Portuguese special forces
Special forces
Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform...

 unit created during the Portuguese Colonial War
Portuguese Colonial War
The Portuguese Colonial War , also known in Portugal as the Overseas War or in the former colonies as the War of liberation , was fought between Portugal's military and the emerging nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies between 1961 and 1974, when the Portuguese regime was...

. Flechas were platoon-sized units consisting of local tribesmen and rebel defectors who specialised in tracking, reconnaissance and pseudo-terrorist operations. They sometimes patrolled in captured uniforms and were rewarded with cash bounties for every guerrilla or guerrilla weapon they captured.

History


Flechas units were created and employed in Angola under the command of the Portuguese secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

 (PIDE
PIDE
In 1969, Marcello Caetano changed the name PIDE to DGS . The death of Salazar and the subsequent ascension of Caetano brought some attempts at democratization, in order to avoid popular insurgency against censorship, the ongoing colonial war and the general restriction of civil rights...

). Composed of locally recruited men, often former guerrilla fighters or khoisan
Khoisan
Khoisan is a unifying name for two ethnic groups of Southern Africa, who share physical and putative linguistic characteristics distinct from the Bantu majority of the region. Culturally, the Khoisan are divided into the foraging San and the pastoral Khoi...

, the units specialised in tracking, reconnaissance and pseudo-terrorist operations. General Costa Gomes
Francisco da Costa Gomes
Francisco da Costa Gomes, ComTE, GOA |Chaves]], 30 June 1914 – Lisbon, Lapa, 31 July 2001), was a Portuguese military officer and politician, the 15th President of the Portuguese Republic .-Life:...

 argued that African soldiers were cheaper, knew better the terrain, and were better able to create a relationship with the local populace, a tactic similar to the 'hearts and minds
Hearts and Minds (Vietnam)
Hearts and Minds refers to a short lived campaign by the United States military during the Vietnam War intended to win the popular support of the Vietnamese people.-History:...

' strategy being used by United States forces
Military of the United States
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 in Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 at the time. Flechas units also operated in the Mozambique at the very end stages of the conflict, following the dismissal of Kaúlza de Arriaga
Kaúlza de Arriaga
Kaúlza de Oliveira de Arriaga, OA, GCC, OC, OIH was a Portuguese General, writer, professor and politician...

 on the eve of the Portuguese coup
Carnation Revolution
The Carnation Revolution , also referred to as the 25 de Abril , was a military coup started on 25 April 1974, in Lisbon, Portugal, coupled with an unanticipated and extensive campaign of civil resistance...

 in 1974. The units were to continue to cause problems for the FRELIMO even after independence and Portuguese withdrawal, when the country splintered into civil war
Mozambican Civil War
The Mozambican Civil War began in 1977, two years after the end of the war of independence. The ruling party, Front for Liberation of Mozambique , was violently opposed from 1977 by the Rhodesian- and South African-funded Mozambique Resistance Movement...

.

Organization and Equipment


They were initially created and organized by the PIDE Sub-Inspector Oscar Cardoso and first saw action in the remote areas that the Portuguese called Terras do Fim do Mundo (Lands of the End of the World) - the eastern region of Angola. The Flechas were organized in Battle Groups of about 30 men. They were equipped with the equipment in use in the Portuguese Army, but also used weapons captured the guerrillas, especially in Pseudo-Terrorist Operations.

Their best known uniform item was the Boina Camuflada (camouflage beret), which became one of its symbols.

Other SF Units


There were, in fact, a number of Portuguese special forces units that were unique to the Portuguese Colonial War
Portuguese Colonial War
The Portuguese Colonial War , also known in Portugal as the Overseas War or in the former colonies as the War of liberation , was fought between Portugal's military and the emerging nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies between 1961 and 1974, when the Portuguese regime was...

:
  • Special Groups
    Special Groups (Portugal)
    The Special Groups were small military units, set up from 1966 to 1974 by the Portuguese Armed Forces in Angola and in Mozambique. Later Paratrooper Special Groups were formed, units able to conduct airborne operations...

     (Grupos Especiais): units similar to the ones used in Angola
  • Paratrooper Special Groups
    Special Groups (Portugal)
    The Special Groups were small military units, set up from 1966 to 1974 by the Portuguese Armed Forces in Angola and in Mozambique. Later Paratrooper Special Groups were formed, units able to conduct airborne operations...

    (Grupos Especiais Pára-Quedistas): units of volunteer black soldiers that had paratrooper training
  • Combat Tracking Special Groups (Grupos Especiais de Pisteiros de Combate): special units trained in tracking