Special Assault Team
|Special Assault Teams (特殊急襲部隊 Tokushu Kyūshū Butai)|
Special Assault Team Shoulder Patch
|Active||1996 – present|
|Branch||Japanese Prefectural Police Departments|
|Role||Domestic anti-Terrorism and Law Enforcement|
Tokyo (Most SAT operatives) at the Metropolitan Police HQ|
The Special Assault Teams (特殊急襲部隊 Tokushu Kyūshū Butai) are counter terrorism units of the Japanese police. They are established in some Prefectural Polices supervised by the National Police Agency. The SAT is mandated, along with the Anti-Firearms Squad and the Counter-NBC Terrorism Squad, for counter terrorism missions and incidents involving firearms or criminals which require an armed response beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement in Japan. Most information on the unit has been confidential, its existence officially revealed only in 1996.
Currently, SAT is officially known in Japanese as Special Unit (特殊部隊 Tokushu Butai) and individual teams officially take the name of the Metropolitan or Prefectural police departments to which they are assigned; an example would be Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Special Unit (警視庁特殊部隊 Keishicho Tokushu Butai, Metropolitan Police Department Special Unit) for the SAT assigned to the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
Establishment of SAT
The origin of the Special Assault Team can be traced back to September 28, 1977 when Tōkyō and Ōsaka began to train Special Armed Police (SAP) units as an armed response to criminal incidents involving firearms, especially after the Dhaka Incident. After its establishment, the unit had its first known incident on January 26, 1979 when the SAP's Osaka branch (then known as the "Zero Company") were deployed during a Mitsubishi Bank hostage incident in Osaka. In the incident, they shot dead Akiyoshi Umekawa after he gunned down two employees and two policemen. It was the first shooting incident in Japan involving armed police officers. SAP units were deployed overseas to assist in the evacuation of Japanese nationals when the Gulf War took place in 1991. In 1992, the SAP was dispatched to Machida city to resolve an armed criminal incident. In 1995, SAP units were dispatched to Yamanashi Prefecture, in order to serve a search warrant to one of Aum Shinrikyo's hideouts, charged with suspicion of the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
On June 21, 1995, All Nippon Airways Flight 857 was hijacked at the Hakodate Airport in Hokkaido by a lone hijacker named Fumio Kutsumi (九津見 文雄). This incident marked the first time that the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces cooperated with the SAP by providing Kawasaki C-1 aircraft as means of transportation from Haneda Airport. The plane was stormed by SAP officers and the hijacker was arrested and subdued, with assistance from the Hokkaido Police's Riot Police Unit. The hijacking attempt marked the need for a specialized counter-terrorist team that would operate under the auspices of the National Police Agency.
During the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Peru, the SAT had simulated raids on retaking buildings similar to the Japanese Embassy as a possible counter-measure to a similar incident in Japanese soil.
On June 11, 1999, a lone man armed with a hunting rifle stormed the Keiyo Bank in Narashino, Chiba Prefecture. The SAT's Chiba unit was deployed to resolve the incident, but the hostage was released and the man was arrested by police through negotiations. The incident then forced Chiba Police to create the Assault Response Team, which would take responsibility for the SAT in low level criminal incidents. The unit has similar responsibilities to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's SIT (Special Investigation Team) and the Osaka Police's MAAT (Martial Arts Attack Team).
The SAT became known in Japanese media again when its Fukuoka branch took part in recapturing a hijacked bus in Fukuoka in the Neomugicha incident in 2000, capturing the lone hijacker alive. The hijacking event showcased the SAT's dedication to protect the public with their counter-terrorist skills in subduing felons such as criminals and terrorists with as little force as possible, although it was suggested that the SAT captured the hijacker was because of the rules implemented in the Law Concerning Execution of Duties of Police Officials, which doesn't allow any police officer to fire their weapons except for situations that require self-defense.
In September 2003, the SAT's Aichi unit was deployed to resolve a hostage incident. However, the hostage-taker Noboru Beppu (別府 昇) committed suicide in an explosion which killed three and injured 41 others.
Recent moves by NPA officials lead to an increase in manpower. In 2005, NPA officials increased the SAT's manpower from 200 to 250 operators. Another increase followed in 2006 when they increased the unit's manpower from 250 to 300 operators.
In May 2007 in another incident in Nagoya, an ex-yakuza gangster named Hisato Obayashi (大林 久人) was captured by officers based from the Aichi Prefecture after he killed Kazuho Hayashi (林 一歩), an SAT operative stationed in Aichi. Posthumously promoted to Captain, he is the first SAT officer to be killed in the line of duty. His death has forced National Public Safety Commission Chairman Kensei Mizote to issue a press report, stating that SAT gear will be checked to see if it was responsible for Hayashi's unfortunate death.
The Tokyo branch, formerly called "Special Operations Company" (特科中隊), is under 6th Mobile Unit, Security Department of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (警視庁警備部第六機動隊). In Osaka Prefecture, it was created under the 2nd Mobile Unit (第二機動隊) and was unofficially called the "Zero Company" (零中隊). Today, the official name of SAT in Japanese is simply "特殊部隊" or "Special Unit."
SAT operators conduct routine training in their own kill house at certain prefectures in the Kantō region. The SAT has also conduct joint training with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in order to maintain their state of readiness. For instance, SAT personnel have been tutored by the 1st Airborne Brigade on insertion techniques.
The Assault section executes assaults and suspect apprehension. The Sniping section provides reconnaissance and precision fire. The Technical Support section operates and maintains communications and surveillance equipment. The technical support group is in charge of electronic equipment such as microphones and cameras. The command section is responsible for tactical planning.
The following leadership ranks are observed in the SAT:
- Commander = Chief Inspector - Keibu (警部)
- Team Captain = Inspector - Keibuho (警部補)
- Squad Leader = Sergeant - Junsabucho (巡査部長)
Upon recruitment to the SAT, the officer's name is made classified from the roster of active police officers; this is to protect them from being attacked by criminals, extremist and terrorist groups, and being subjected to legal proceedings. SAT operators have entered joint training with the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Teams on CQC tactics. 10 SAT officers were placed under training by Queensland Police's Specialist Service Branch in Queensland, Australia.
- Glock 19
- Heckler & Koch P9
- Heckler & Koch USP 9
- Nambu Model 60
- SIG Sauer P226
- SIG Sauer P228
- Smith & Wesson Model 3913
- Heckler & Koch MP5: The following models are used by the SAT.
- Unknown, but known shotguns in possession include Benelli, Mossberg and Remington-type shotguns
- Heckler & Koch PSG1
- Howa Type 64 Rifles modified for sniping use
- Remington 700
- Howa M1500
- Dickson-Howa Golden Bear
- Sako TRG-42
Areas of Responsibility (AOR)
- The SAT Tokyo unit is responsible for the Haneda Airport and other facilities such as the Imperial Palace, the Prime Minister's residence or Kantei and the National Diet Building. The unit is also in charge of resolving situations involving any hostile act against foreign embassies.
- The Narita International Airport is the responsibility of the SAT Chiba unit.
- Kanagawa's SAT unit takes charge of securing the US Navy's 7th Fleet headquarters.
- Aichi's SAT unit is responsible for the Chubu Centrair International Airport.
- Security for the Fukuoka Airport and the various foreign consulates are left to the Fukuoka SAT unit.
- Various US Military installations, such as the Naha Military Port, and the Naha Airport are left to the responsibility of the Okinawa SAT unit. This was the latest SAT unit to be established on September 10, 2005.
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