Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.Selous Scouts "Pamwe Chete" title block.Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.






























Ambushing of Terrorists


  1. Aim. The aim of an ambush is to surprise and eliminate the enemy on ground t and in circumstances of the military forces' own choosing.
  2. Intelligence. The majority of ambushes are laid as a result of:
    1. a. Intelligence gained through direct or indirect information from surrendered or captured terrorists, agents and informers.
    2. Chance information.
    3. An appreciation of likely terrorist movement and activity based on familiarity with an area, coupled with the pattern of terrorist movement in the area concerned.
  3. Purpose. An ambush may be designed to eliminate either individuals or groups of the enemy. Enemy movement may not take place at the time anticipated, and the enemy may use civilians to watch for signs of military forces activity and ambush positions. Commanders must always remember this and not become discouraged if a carefully laid ambush fails to achieve its objects. A clear distinction must, however, be drawn between such failures and ambushes that are in the right place at the right time, but fail because of mismanagement.
  4. Composition.
    1. Ambushes may vary in size from a small four-man affair laid as part of a patrol operation, to a major operation involving a platoon/company group. The guiding principle will be economy of force. The smaller the force, the easier it will be to introduce it into the ambush area, to control the operation and to extricate the ambush force after contact.
    2. It is essential that the best possible team is chosen for each ambush. This may frequently entail a troop/company commander commanding an ambush group, although it may only consist of a handful of men. Men especially selected for their marksmanship or other particular qualities should be drawn from any element of the unit. The overriding consideration in selecting the ambush party should be to choose the troop most likely to succeed in that particular case.
  5. The principles of ambushing. Instantaneous coordinated action against a surprised enemy held within a well-covered killing ground is essential for success. This requires fulfillment of the following conditions:
    1. A high standard of training in ambush techniques.
    2. Careful planning and execution.
    3. First-class security in all stages.
    4. Concealment of all signs of the occupation of the position.
    5. An intelligent layout and siting.
    6. A high standard of battle discipline, particularly by night.
    7. Determination by all troopers of the ambush party to wait and kill.
    8. A simple clear-cut plan for springing the ambush.
    9. Good shooting from all positions: kneeling, sitting, standing, lying and from behind cover.
    10. Surprise, the key to successful ambushes.
    11. Safety of own forces.



  1. Principles. There are three fundamental principles of general layout:
    1. All possible approaches should be covered.
    2. A killing ground must be carefully selected.
    3. The ambush must have depth.
  2. Approaches. Information may frequently give the destination of the terrorists, but will rarely give the exact route they will take. However good information may be, terrorists may well arrive from an unexpected direction. It is therefore essential that all possible approaches be covered.
  3. Killing ground. A carefully selected killing ground is the key to the ambush and must permit spontaneous and coordinated action on a surprised enemy, thereby ensuring that maximum casualties are inflicted.
  4. Depth. At the first burst of fire, terrorists scatter with remarkable rapidity and the chances of getting a second burst from the same position are small. It is important, therefore, that groups should be so sited that when the terrorists scatter after the first burst, subsequent groups take a progressive toll of any survivors.

Composition of the Ambush Force

  1. Groups. On each occasion when an ambush is planned there is a requirement for the military force to be broken down into a number of groups. Ideally, the ambush force should consist of the following groups:
    1. a. Command group.
    2. b. Killing group.
    3. c. Stop/cover groups.
    4. d. Reserve.
    5. e. Lookout groups.


Ambush on a track.


  1. Direction of enemy group approach.
  2. Command group - attached to stop group #3.
  3. Stop/cover groups - depending on position in ambush.
  4. Areas or cone of fire.
  5. Killing group and assault groups.
  6. Look-out group to prevent reinforcement of enemy.
  7. Direction of expected enemy reaction.
  8. Alternative position for stop group.
  9. Reserve - centrally located to assist any group in its mission.


  1. Siting. In siting, the commander must:
    1. Consider concealment as his first priority. Movement in the area must be kept to a minimum, even at the expense of indifferent fire positions. Each man should enter his position from the rear. The group commander must ensure that all traces of movement into the position are removed or concealed.
    2. Ensure that the man detailed to spring the ambush has a good view of the killing ground.
    3. Ensure that other men of the group will have good fire positions when they break through their concealment, i.e., stand up to engage moving terrorists.
    4. Site his men in a position of all-around defense.
    5. Choose his own position for maximum control of his group. f. Ensure the safety of own troops.


  1. Employment. Groups may be employed in two ways, bearing in mind the principles of layout:
    1. Limited ambush. When definite information indicates that the enemy will be coming to a specific point, for example, a waterhole or food dump, or using a specific track or crossing place, then a limited ambush is sited to cover this specific point. Cut-off groups may be employed to give depth to the ambush and to take a progressive toll of the fleeing enemy.
    2. Area ambush. When definite information indicates that the enemy will be moving to an area but the exact spot is not known, or that the enemy will be moving through a definite area but the exact route is not known, then an area ambush is laid to cover all possible approaches or routes, bearing in mind depth. An area ambush, in fact, consists of a series of limited ambushes in a certain area with an overall ambush commander.
  2. Duration. The duration of an ambush will determine whether it is classified as short or long term.
    1. Short term. An ambush of less than nine hours' duration which requires no administration other than arrangements for rest within the groups is a short-term ambush.
    2. Long term. If ambushes are set for longer periods, they become long-term ambushes and administrative arrangements are necessary for the relief of groups for feeding and sleeping. Such ambushes may be placed on the approaches to a cultivated area which is ready for harvesting, or to a known enemy camp. A rest area must be set up and should be sited far enough away to avoid noises and smells disclosing the presence of troops. Communication routes may have to be cleared so that silent relief's can be carried out. The problem of relief's must be carefully considered, particularly in the case of the area ambush. The following points are applicable:
      1. Normally, relief's will come from the administrative area along the communication route. Although the whole party in the ambush will eventually be relieved, only one member of the party should be changed at a time in case the enemy arrives during this period.
      2. The ideal is that ambushes should be divided into three parties, one in the ambush position, the reserve, and the party at rest. On relief, the party in reserve takes over the ambush position, the men in the ambush position go into rest and the party resting goes into reserve.
      3. if a party is less than six and the ambush has to be in position for a long time, the whole party should be withdrawn during set periods to rest. Parties are responsible for their own security when resting. Their food must be precooked and they will not be able to smoke. Adequate water must always be available.
      4. When a party is over six, but not large enough to carry out the three-group ambush, sufficient men for all-around observation should man the ambush. The others should move away from the ambush position, post sentries and rest. Those resting will act as a reserve and should not, therefore, go far away. They will not be able to smoke and their food must be precooked. Adequate water must always be available.
  3. Night ambushes. Ambushes can be laid both by day and by night. Night ambushes are often the most successful because enemy parties tend to move during the hours of darkness. In darkness, concealment is easy, but shooting is obviously less accurate. Much therefore depends on good siting of weapons so that the killing ground is interlaced with fire. The doctrine for any ambush also applies to night ambush; however, the following are to be noted.
    1. Factors. If an ambush is to be maintained during the hours of darkness, the following conditions must be observed:
      1. Automatic weapons must fire on fixed lines; the left and right of arcs of personal weapons should be fixed by means of sticks to avoid danger to friendly troops.
      2. The killing ground must be adequately illuminated.
      3. The system of relief's for sentries and those manning the position must be modified.
      4. Alternative means of silent communication are required.
    2. Occupation and orders.
      1. Where possible, the position should be occupied before last light.
      2. Men and groups must be sited closer together than by day so that they can be properly controlled.
      3. The ambush party must remain absolutely still. All movement can then be assumed to be that of the enemy. No movement from outside to contact an established ambush must ever take place.
      4. Clear orders, precise fire control instructions, and clear rendezvous and signals are essential.
    3. Illumination. As a general rule, all night ambushes should be provided with some sort of artificial illumination. This should be sited to light up the killing ground without blinding the ambush party.



Many factors affect a plan for ambush. The following are common to all ambushes:

  1. Enemy.
    1. Nature and strength.
    2. Routes.
    3. Method of movement.
    4. Security measures.
    5. Normal reaction.
    6. Likely assistance.
  2. Terrain. Information on the ambush area can be obtained from maps,, previous patrol reports, police, surrendered or captured terrorists and air photographs. All possible enemy approaches should be considered. When considering likely ambush sites, the obvious should be avoided.
  3. Clearance. Movement of other troops in the area must be considered.
  4. Time factor. The necessity of being unseen, coupled with knowledge of local population habits, will dictate a safe time and method for moving into the ambush area.
  5. Security. Intentions of the government troops must be disguised from the start; for example, by moving out to the ambush position during the hours of darkness and/or making a circumspect/indirect approach. The telephone should not be used when discussing plans for an ambush. A cover plan should always be made when time is available.
  6. Plan.
    1. Location.
    2. Time occupation completed.
    3. Routes, including return.
    4. Strength and special equipment.
    5. Dispositions.
    6. Method of stopping enemy within the killing zone.
  7. Preparation.
    1. Success depends on adequate preparation. The time available for preparation is often limited. Certain items must therefore be kept in a state of constant readiness. For example:
      1. Weapons must be kept zeroed and tested.
      2. Ammunition, magazines and charges must be kept clean and frequently emptied and refilled.
    2. Preparation on receipt of information should include:
      1. Thorough briefing.
      2. Rehearsal when time allows.
      3. Firing practice, if time allows.
      4. Final checking of weapons.
  8. Briefing. All members of the ambush party must be fully briefed. It is suggested that briefing be divided into two parts:
    1. Preliminary briefing at a static location. This should include the items shown in Section 8 of this chapter.
    2. Final briefing in the area of actual ambush by the commander of the ambush. This is to be kept to the minimum, but must include:
      1. General area of each group, including direction of fire.
      2. The pointing out of prominent features on the ground, including rendezvous.
      3. Location of the commander.
      4. Any change of plan.
  9. Rehearsal.
    1. The more time that can be devoted to rehearsal, the greater will be the chance of success. Rehearsals should not be carried out at the ambush site, as security will be prejudiced immediately. It should usually be possible to select a site for rehearsal closely resembling the actual ambush position. All possible and likely terrorist action should be simulated and the ambush groups practiced in springing the ambush under a variety of circumstances, including the unexpected eventuality.
    2. Rehearsals for night ambushes should be done at night, and where it is proposed to make use of night illumination aids, these should also be employed.
  10. Siting.
    1. Area ambush.
      1. The ambush commander is first to choose the killing ground and the general area of each group from his personal knowledge of the area, aided by maps and photographs. He is to lay down the directions of the fire for each group in order to obtain the maximum fire effect from the weapons at his disposal, and to ensure the safety of his ops. He is to nominate the rendezvous and give the administrative plan.
      2. The ambush party moves to a dispersal point from which groups then move by carefully selected routes to their various group positions. The ambush commander may only be able to site one position in detail, leaving the remainder to be sited by group commanders.
      3. Each group commander is then to carry out his reconnaissance, siting and issue of orders.
    2. Limited ambush. On reaching the ambush area, the commander is to:
      1. Carry out his reconnaissance to choose a killing ground and consider the extent of his position, bearing in mind the distance between terrorists. The ambush position should avoid the obvious, if possible.
      2. Ensure that the man nominated to spring the ambush has a good view of the killing ground.
  11. Occupation. The occupation of an ambush position should be carried out with great care. All traces made by the ambush party must be carefully concealed. Remember that suspicious signs such as paper scraps, footprints and bruised vegetation will put the enemy on his guard and it is essential that all items with a distinctive smell which will betray the presence of the ambush party be left behind. Men's hair should be washed free of hair oils and hair creams, and cigarettes, sweets, chewing gum and other scented food must not be carried. It is frequently necessary to wear civilian-type shoes or to disguise the tell-tale marks of military footwear.
  12. Locals. Any local inhabitants seen to observe the approach of the ambush party must be detained until the ambush is discontinued.
  13. Lying in ambush. Once a group is in position, there must be no sound or movement. This is a test of training and battle discipline. Men must be trained to get into a comfortable position and remain still for long periods. During the wait, weapons must be cocked and ready to fire. As it is not possible for men to remain alert for six to eight hours, arrangements must be made for rest. One or two men in the group will be listening and watching while the others rest in the ambush position. By rest it is meant that a man relaxes in his position, resting his eyes and ears.
  14. Springing the ambush. The ambush should be sprung when all possible terrorists are in the killing ground and the range has been reduced to the minimum. There must be no half-heartedness or premature action. All men must clearly understand the orders and drill for opening fire.
    1. The principle to be observed when springing an ambush is that fire should not be opened so long as terrorists are moving towards someone in a better position to kill. A limited ambush will normally be sprung by the machine gunner on a prearranged signal from the commander or by the commander activating a claymore mine.
    2. Should a terrorist act as though he has spotted the ambush, any man who sees this should spring the ambush.
    3. All shots must be aimed to kill. Once fire has been opened, targets become more difficult, and to cope with moving targets men may have to stand up.
  15. Follow-up action. A signal must be arranged to stop firing, so that immediate follow-up action and search can start as soon as terrorists become impossible to engage. After the ambush has been sprung, men who have been previously detailed are to search the immediate area under cover of ambush weapons and covering each other. They will:
    1. Check terrorists in the killing area and secure any who are still living.
    2. Search the area, including trees, holes, etc., thoroughly for terrorists.
    3. Collect arms, ammunition and equipment and any other clues which may materially assist investigation.
  16. Tracker groups and war dogs.
    1. A great many terrorists wounded in ambush get away. In many cases they probably escape by rushing into the undergrowth and lying low until the hue and cry has died down, when they can crawl away. The employment of tracker groups will quite often lead to their capture or elimination.
    2. Experience has shown that the blood trail left by wounded terrorists is not always an aid to a tracker dog, and is sometimes more useful as a visual aid to the human tracker.
    3. The tracker group should not form part of the ambush party, but should stand by at some convenient rendezvous ready to move when shooting indicates that the ambush has been sprung.
    4. Under certain circumstances patrol dogs may form part of the ambush group. They may be most profitably employed where several alternative routes lead into the ambush position and it is not known which route the terrorists will take. It must be borne in mind, however, that their presence may give the ambush positions away to the terrorists due to panting, other noises and the smell. However, when used, dogs will invariably be alerted before any human being.
  17. Calling off the ambush. A definite signal for calling off the ambush must be arranged. This is particularly important in area ambushes and night ambushes in order to avoid the possibility of an individual or group being left behind. This point must be stressed as officers and men have been killed when returning to collect a man or group left in ambush.
  18. Rendezvous (RV). An easily found RV with, where possible, an alternative, must be selected at which troops will rally at the end of the action on receipt of the prearranged signal.


  1. As ambushing is a most successful means of killing terrorists, time must be given to training for it. This is particularly important for group leaders. Training must be aimed at eliminating common faults and improving techniques. Its objects are to:
    1. Achieve silence and stillness in ambush.
    2. Train troops to occupy ambush positions without advertising their presence.
    3. Ensure good siting of weapons and positioning of commanders.
    4. Improve fire control and particularly the even distribution of fire.
    5. Practice clear, well-understood drills for springing ambushes, search and follow-up.
    6. Ensure accurate shooting at difficult moving targets.
    7. Improve care of weapons and eliminate stoppages.
    8. Place special emphasis on silent signals to achieve surprise.


  1. Cases have occurred where soldiers and police were shot by parties of military forces waiting to ambush terrorists as a result of information received.
  2. The primary cause is that the ambush party is keyed up to expect the arrival of the terrorists in the area of the ambush, and, on seeing any movement, fire is opened. often conditions are such that it is not possible for the ambush group to recognize the identity of the people entering the ambush area.
  3. Once an ambush has been set, there should be no movement of any kind by security forces anywhere near the ambush position, unless it is unavoidable. Where it is necessary for such movement to take place, it must be carefully planned and rehearsed. In all other cases, once clearance has been given for the ambush to take place, no movement of any kind is to be allowed. This is of particular importance to the night ambush when no movement from outside to contact an established ambush must ever take place.
  4. It is important to ensure that fire discipline is observed.


  1. The following are some reasons for failures which have been reported by ambush commanders. These may help in the training for, and mounting of, ambushes:
    1. "Disclosure of the ambush by the noise made by cocking weapons and moving safety catches or change levers. Check your weapons, practice men in their silent handling and ensure that all weapons are ready to fire."
    2. "There was a tendency to shoot high. This must be corrected on the jungle range."
    3. "Disclosure of the ambush position by footprints made by the ambush party moving into position and by movement of individuals at the crucial time, when terrorists were approaching."
    4. "There was a lack of fire control and commanders were unable to stop the firing and start the immediate follow-up."
    5. "Commanders were badly sited, with consequent lack of control."
    6. "There was a lack of all-around observation, resulting in terrorists arriving in the area of the ambush unannounced."
    7. "There were misfires and stoppages through failure to clean, inspect and test weapons and magazines."
    8. "There was a lack of a clearly defined drill for opening fire and orders were contradictory."
    9. "There was a tendency for all to fire at the same target."
    10. "Fire was opened prematurely."
    11. "It has been found that, provided you achieve surprise, the disadvantage of being outnumbered can be overcome."
  2. A higher proportion of enemy eliminations are achieved in ambushes, and better opportunities exist to obtain kills, than in any other form of contact. Particularly when chances of contact are remote, it is essential that full advantage be taken of every chance offered, and that ambushes laid as a result of direct high-grade information be based on sound and detailed planning, executed by specially selected troops.


  1. Security.
    1. Do not use the telephone.
    2. Do not allow men out after briefing.
  2. Situation.
    1. Topography. Use of air photographs, maps and local knowledge; consider use of a guide.
    2. Terrorists.
      1. Expected strength.
      2. Names and anticipated order of march. Photographs.
      3. Dress and weapons of individuals.
      4. Which is the VIP?
      5. What are the habits of party concerned?
    3. Local population.
      1. Locations.
      2. Habits.
      3. Appearance.
    4. Security forces.
      1. Guides or surrendered terrorists to accompany.
      2. What other security forces are doing.
  3. Mission. This must be clear in the mind of every man, especially when a particular terrorist is to be killed.
  4. Execution.
    1. Type of layout.
    2. Duration of the operation.
    3. Position and direction of fire of groups.
    4. Dispersal point.
    5. Weapons to be carried, including special weapons, e.g., shotguns.
    6. Composition of groups.
    7. Timing and routes.
    8. Formations during move in.
    9. Orders to spring the ambush.
    10. Distribution of fire.
    11. Use of grenades.
    12. Action on ambush being discovered.
    13. Orders on immediate follow-up.
    14. Orders for search.
    15. Deliberate follow-up.
    16. Rendezvous.
    17. Trackers and auxiliaries.
    18. Dogs, if any.
    19. Deception plan.
    20. Alerting.
  5. Administration and logistics.
    1. Use of transport to area.
    2. Equipment and dress -- footwear for moving in.
    3. Rations, if any.
    4. Special equipment:
      1. Night-lighting equipment.
      2. Cameras.
      3. Fingerprint equipment.
    5. Medical.
      1. First field dressings, first-aid packs and identity discs.
      2. Medical orderly.
      3. stretcher and ambulance.
    6. Relief's.
    7. Administrative area, if required, and orders concerning cooking and smoking.
    8. Transport for return Journey.
    9. Inspection of personnel and equipment:
      1. Men with colds not to be taken.
      2. Is zeroing of weapons correct?
      3. Is ammunition fresh?
      4. Are magazines properly filled?
  6. Command and signal.
    1. Position of commander/second-in-command.
    2. Signals:
      1. Open fire.
      2. Cease fire.
      3. Call off ambush.
      4. Success.
      5. Silent signals.
    3. Radio:
      1. Allocation of radios.
      2. Frequencies, schedules, nicknames, etc.
      3. Radio silence.
    4. Password and identification.
  7. Remember final check and inspection.







THIS SITE LAST UPDATED: Sunday, September 16, 2007 06:43:38 PM

Copyright 2000 - 2007 by T.A.L. DOZER. All rights reserved.