The Selous Scouts
were a highly-trained, elite Rhodesian counter-insurgency
unit whose prowess was often compared favorably to the best special forces units in the world. Formed in 1974, the Selous Scouts were specialists in longrange reconnassaince
, infiltration, and pseudo-operations. Like all special forces
units they endured training that the average person might consider barbaric. The Selous Scouts were disbanded in 1980 when Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith
handed over power to black nationalists and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe
During the 1970's Rhodesia became the site of one of the many proxy wars that were fought in southern Africa as part of the Cold War. As the colonial powers retreated, black nationalists fought for independence from white rule and apartheid. The two largest Rhodesian nationalist movements were ZIPRA and ZANLA. The Selous Scouts were formed to fight against these black nationalists / freedom fighters / guerillas / terrorists. The Scouts were made up of black soldiers from the Rhodesian African Rifles, as well as white soldiers in black-face. They would infiltrate ZIPRA and ZANLA areas of operation, passing themselves off as guerilla fighters and attempt to subvert the guerilla infrastructure in what is known as pseudo-ops.
Black nationalists fighting against the Selous Scouts bluntly called them cold-blooded murderers. And while Rhodesia's white-supremacist government fell in 1980, it really wasn't until the fall of apartheid in South Africa and the ensuing reconciliation trials that many of the nationalist charges were verified - for South Africa had worked closely with the Rhodesian military - especially the Selous Scouts. Many of the Scouts fled to South Africa after they were disbanded.
Now, as more and more former Rhodesian officials write their memoirs and more evidence flows out of the South African courts, the reputation of the Selous Scouts is changing. Instead of proud warriors able to stand among the world's elite, they are linked with some of the worst examples of inhuman excess. Forget Saddam Hussein - the Selous Scouts wrote the book on chemical and biological warfare. Historians have documented that the Selous Scouts seeded rivers with cholera, used the chemical toxins warfarin and thallium, poisoned reservoirs and wells, and were almost certainly responsible for causing the world's largest anthrax outbreak: in 1979-80 over 10,000 Rhodesians contracted the disease and nearly 200 died.
The white-supremacist government was using the Selous Scouts to kill its own citizens, but the outbreak was almost entirely confined to the Tribal Trust Lands. These were areas that had been assigned to Rhodesia's blacks when the country was divided into distinct areas for black and white habitation by the Land Apportionment Act of 1930. By the end of 1979, one-third of Tribal Trust Lands were affected with anthrax, approximately 17% of the land area of the country. The commercial (white-owned) farming areas were almost completely spared. The worst affected areas are still prone to anthrax to this day.
The Selous Scouts stealthily distributed the deadly anthrax spore among the hungry cattle of the Rhodesian Tribal Trust Lands, where most Africans lived, and seeded cholera into the rivers. And Ken Flowers - the head of Rhodesia's Central Intelligence Organisation - admitted to the deliberate distribution of warfarin-poisoned clothing, which killed hundreds of black guerrillas and civilians. The shocking breadth of the Rhodesian chemical and biological warfare program has been chronicled by a former top Rhodesian agent, Henrik Ellert, in Plague Wars. Ellert, formerly with the British South Africa Police in Rhodesia, recalls how thallium (a lethal, heavy-metal toxin similar to rat poison) was injected into tins of corned beef and fed to guerrilla fighters. Predictably, some of the tins fell into the hands of innocent villagers who ate it - killing many of them.
Even worse, in 1975 clinical trials were performed on human guinea pigs at a remote Selous Scout camp in northeastern Rhodesia. The victims were chosen from detention centers, usually little-known detainees who had been arrested on various security charges. There doctors administered various chemical and biological agents to the prisoners, experimenting with delivery systems and dose levels. Ostensibly one of the goals was to find an agent that would only affect blacks and leave whites unscathed.
Now, more than twenty years after they were disbanded, the Selous Scouts have actually gained a little mention in the American press. The prime suspect in the anthrax letters scare that accompanied 9/11 is one Stephen Hatfill. Hatfill's resume includes a stint with the Selous Scouts. Hatfill's time with the Selous Scouts coincided with the massive anthrax outbreak. At that time he was living a few miles from a place called Greendale School. The return address on the anthrax letters was "Greendale School" with a false address in New Jersey.