|The elite Australian Special Air Service (SAS) fighting at our side in Vietnam|
Australian special forces are operating in several African countries gathering intelligence on terrorists
- Information gathered flows into databases used by the United States
The Sydney Morning Herald said 4 Squadron of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) had mounted dozens of clandestine operations in places such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya in a role normally carried out by spies.
Citing a government source, it said the missions by the previously unknown squadron were believed to involve terrorism intelligence gathering amid concerns about the threat posed by the Islamist al-Shebab militia.
They are also aimed at developing rescue strategies for evacuating trapped Australian civilians while assessing African border controls and exploring landing sites for possible military interventions.
The information gathered flows into databases used by the United States and its allies, it said.
According to the newspaper, ASIS officers are permitted under Australian law to carry false passports and, if arrested, to deny who they are employed by.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith refused to confirm the group's existence "because we don't want to put at risk either operations or our national security". But he insisted that all Australian operatives overseas did their job within the law and had proper protection.
Soldiers of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment firing weapons from a Long Range Patrol Vehicle.
Afghanistan - circa mid 2000s