Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale

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GIGN gendarmes during a mock assault

The GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) is the French Gendarmerie's elite counterterrorism and hostage rescue unit. It is composed of 113 men, including 11 officers.

Its missions include the arrest of gunmen, in particular those taking hostages, counterterrorism, including airplane hijacking, or prevention of mutiny in prisons.

It is headquartered in Satory, west of Paris. Along with the EPIGN it forms the GSIGN (Groupe de Sécurité et d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, Group of Security and Intervention of the National Gendarmerie).



After the tragic events of the Munich massacre during the Olympic Games in 1972, and a mutiny in Clairvaux the next year, France started to study the possible solutions to extremely violent attacks, under the assumptions that these would be extremely difficult to predict and deflect.

In 1973, the GIGN was created as a permanent force of men trained and equipped to respond to these kind of threats while minimising risks for the public and hostages, for the members of the unit, and for the attackers themselves. The GIGN became operational on the first of March, 1974, under command of Lieutenant Christian Prouteau.

Ten days later, a terrorist group was successfully stopped in Ecquevilly, validating the techniques of the unit and proving its necessity.

Since its creation, the group has taken part in over 1000 operations, liberated over 500 hostages, arrested over 1000 suspects, and dispatched a dozen terrorists. The unit has seen one member killed in action, nine in training.

Past actions included:

  • Liberation of 30 children from an autocar captured by FLCS (front de libération de la côte somalienne, "Somaly Coast Liberation Front") in Djibouti in 1976.
  • Liberation of diplomats from an embassy in San Salvador in 1979.
  • Arrest of a Corsican commando in Flechen Hostel in 1980
  • Hostage liberation in Guipry in 1989
  • Liberation of personnel taken hostage during the mutiny in the Moulin prison.
  • Protection of the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Alberville
  • Operations in Bosnia in 1992 and 1995
  • In December 1994, liberation of the 164 passengers of Air France Flight 8969 in Marignane. The plane, hijacked by four GIA terrorists, had been mined, and three passangers had been executed during the negotiations with the Algerian government. The mission was widely publicised.
  • Arrest of Bob Denard in 1995 in Comores

The GIGN was selected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to teach the special forces of the other member states.


The GIGN is divided into four groups: negotiation, special equipment section (mechanics, video, weaponry), a language group (individuals specialized in teaching foreign units), and a technical group which provides the unit with modified and high-tech equipment, by either selecting or designing it.

Training includes shooting, marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat techniques (Krav-Maga).

Optional competencies: police dogs, diving, parachutism, explosives, survival, the education in those various capabilities being dispensed by the appropriate training centers of the French military.

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