SAS vs ISIS: 5 Notorious Incidents When The Two Went Head to Head

The Special Air Service – or SAS – almost needs no introduction. The British Special Forces unit is one of the most elite in the world, and tales of the heroism and derring-do of its members have circulated since its founding in 1941.

The operations that fall under their remit are broad. From reconnaissance, covert operations, counterterrorism, and hostage rescue, the SAS are frequently deployed in service of the goals of the British government and are rightly feared the world over. 

It is unsurprising, then, that the SAS has had frequent run-ins with the notorious ISIS. Also known as ISIL, Islamic State, and Daesh, this infamous Islamist paramilitary organization came into being in 1999.

”One of the ISIS executioners was feared across their territory for the brutal method he used to dispatch ‘suspected spies’ – a flamethrower.”

It wasn’t until 2014, however, that ISIS achieved true notoriety, with the capture of large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

Known for inhumanity and utter brutality, and savagery, it was perhaps inevitable that ISIS would encounter the SAS on the field of battle.

What follows are accounts of five of the most intense of those conflicts, in which the SAS and ISIS went toe-to-toe with bloody results. 

Let’s take a look, then, at the five most notorious SAS vs ISIS encounters. 

SAS Sniper Kills ISIS Executioner [September 2016, Raqqa, Syria]

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One of the earliest encounters between the SAS and ISIS was also one of the most dramatic.

The skills of the SAS’s snipers are feared the world over, and with shots such as the one made in this story, it’s no surprise at all. 

In the fall of 2016, ISIS was well and truly in its ascension – and its barbaric acts were equally on the rise.

One of the ISIS executioners was feared across their territory for the brutal method he used to dispatch ‘suspected spies’ – a flamethrower. 

Luckily for his intended victims, an SAS sniper happened to be in a position to stop him from making use of the barbaric weapon, opening fire with his Barrett .50-caliber rifle – a heavy anti-materiel rifle more commonly used to target light tanks and other vehicles – and detonating the fuel tank of his flamethrower. 

Three other ISIS militants reportedly died in the conflagration, and the hostages – eight men and four women – were later rescued. 

ISIS Terrorists Wound 2 SAS Soldiers In Rocket Attack [Eastern Syria, January 2019] 

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Unfortunately, not all encounters between ISIS and SAS have gone in favor of the latter. One such confrontation took place in January 2019, when ISIS militants attacked a joint YPG-SAS team working to clear the Islamist militants out of the Al-Shafah area of eastern Deir Ezzo. 

The two SAS soldiers who were injured in the rocket attack were, tragically, not the only casualties.

One of their Kurdish comrades was killed in the attack, and another was injured. The two SAS soldiers were immediately evacuated by their American comrades, and neither were believed to have died. 

SAS Hit Back Against ISIS [Eastern Syria, January 2019] 

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The SAS wasted no time in retaliating against ISIS in the wake of the rocket attack that left two of their own injured – and killed one of their YPG comrades – in January 2019. 

The operation, taking place in Al-Shafah (the same village where their soldiers were subject to a rocket attack), was a massive success, with a tightly-coordinated SAS team descending upon ISIS foxholes and rapidly flushing the terrorists out of cover. 

As ISIS militants tried to flee the scene in vehicles, the 30-strong SAS squad, which contained assault specialists and snipers, killed around 20 of them.

In the wake of the rocket attack, it was seen as a massive victory for the British Special Forces. 

SAS Troops Wage A ‘Secret War’ Against ISIS [Northeast Iraq, April-June 2020] 

During the spring and summer of 2020, SAS covert teams took the fight to Islamic State militants in the northeast of Bayji, Iraq.

The elite soldiers were supported by RAF Typhoons and cutting-edge drones that were controlled from RAF Waddington in England. 

Over the course of the two-month campaign, the ISIS terrorists – including British Jihadists who’d defected to the Islamic militants – learned to fear the dogged SAS teams shadowing them.

With the recon provided by the SAS boots on the ground, RAF Typhoons and Reaper drones utterly decimated the terrorist forces, resulting in the destruction of multiple cave networks and IED stockpiles. 

SAS Sniper Kills 5 ISIS Militants With A Single Shot [Syria, January 2021] 

One of the most legendary encounters between ISIS and the SAS came in January 2021, when an unnamed SAS soldier demonstrated just why the unit is so feared

The encounter came somewhere in Syria, with an SAS squad having been deployed to watch a suspected ISIS bomb factory.

After several days of surveillance, one of the squadmates – a 20-year veteran of the SAS – spotted five men emerging from the building. He recognized that one of the men was wearing what he perceived to be a suicide vest. 

The group of men was around half a mile away from the sniper – a point which was around the upper limit for the soldier’s ability to make a clean shot.

”The amazing shot was rightly celebrated by the sniper and his squad, with his comrades purportedly awarding him a “long-range death” baseball cap upon his return to base.”

After radioing command and receiving the green light, the sniper used a Barrett .50 cal to take the shot. 

Because of the extreme distance, the sniper forwent a riskier headshot in favor of a torso shot, which had a better chance of connecting.

And connect he did – with a .50-caliber round that tore through the terrorist’s chest and ignited his suicide vest, blowing the bomber up along with his four confederates. 

The amazing shot was rightly celebrated by the sniper and his squad, with his comrades purportedly awarding him a “long-range death” baseball cap upon his return to base. 

When it Comes to the British SAS vs ISIS, the Former Always Comes Out on Top

As we’ve seen, the SAS’s formidable reputation is one that is well-earned – particularly when it comes to their much-feared snipers, whose sharpshooting skills are lauded the world over. 

Naturally, there have been many other encounters between the SAS and ISIS, but the ones we’ve outlined above are by far the most notorious of them – and demonstrate just why it’s the case that, in most engagements between the two, it’s the SAS that comes out on top. 

RavenCrest Tactical


From Eastern Ukraine to the mountains of Chechnya, Jay has spent the better part of a decade working on the ground as a security consultant in some of the world's most high-risk areas. His work can range from unrivalled insights into breakaway states to covering the latest tech on the defense market and everything in between!


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