Special Operations Unit (JSO) (Yugoslavia)

Country: Yugoslavia
Details of Formation: Franko (Frenki) Simatovic formed the Special Operations Unit in 1996. Dragan Vasiljkovic (sometimes also referred to as Captain Dragan) helped form the JSO and was unofficially affiliated with it. It incorporated elements of the Kninjas. The JSO was the successor group of the Red Berets which had been transformed into the JSO. The JSO had, in contrast to the Red Berets, a formalized status (BBC 2003a).
Details of Termination: In October 2000, the JSO supported the opposition to Yugoslav President Milosevic, instead siding with later Prime Minister Djindjic. However, their alliance with Djindjic was very weak. The JSO became increasingly linked to the mafia group Zemun clan. Commanders of the JSO were involved in the killing of Prime Minister Djindjic in 2003 (BBC 2003a). Djindjic had declared war on organized crime in Serbia, and the JSO commanders who committed the murder were part of the Zemun clan (BBC 2003b). Following the murder, the government announced the JSO disbanded. In order to avoid that its former members became further involved in organized crime, the government decided to redeploy former members in other forces, especially the Gendarmerie (BBC 2003).
Purpose: The main purpose of the JSO was to serve as shock troops carrying out ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Kosovo. When Djindjic became Prime Minister, he used the JSO to balance his rival Kostunica, who held the other part of the divided government and had army support.
Organisation: The JSO’s first commander was Frenki Simatovic. Other commanders include Zvezdan Jovanovic (deputy commander), Milorad Lukovic (aka Legija)and Dusko Maricic. The JSO was known for their loyalty to President Milosevic. The JSO was linked to the Serbian Interior Ministry and reportedly incorporated into the Serbian police force after the Dayton peace accord in 1995. The communication with and control of the JSO was in the hands of Simatovic. Later, they had links to Prime Minister Djindjic whose orders they followed until they participated in killing him.
Weapons and Training: The JSO were armed with side-holster bayonets and AK-47 automatic rifles.
Size: The JSO had approximately 1,000 members, according to news sources of 1999 and 2004. Another news source reports that when the Serbian government ordered the group disbanded in March 2003, they had around 300 members.
Reason for Membership: --
Treatment of Civilians: The JSO carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’ and expulsions of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. They forced civilians out of their homes, looted their property and beat those who resisted. They took some to unknown locations. They were allegedly responsible for the Jan. 15 massacre in Racak, where 45 Albanian civilians had been executed.
Other Information: The JSO is sometimes also called ‘the boys from brazil’ or the Frenkis.
References: British Broadcasting Corporation. 2003. “Serbia's 'elite' enemy within.“ March 26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2888943.stm

British Broadcasting Corporation. 2003. “Serb police kill Djindjic suspects.“ March 28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2893947.stm

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD