The paramilitary force has conducted more than 650 operations against guerrillas, criminals, deranged people holed up with weapons, and convicts during prison riots.
It has successfully mounted operations involving airliners, including a previous one at Marseilles airport in August 1984, when it captured a man who seized an Algeria-bound Air France cargo aircraft on the ground.
The GIGN captured six Iranian hijackers who had taken more than 200 hostages on an Iranian airliner at Orly airport in Paris, in July 1983. It has freed about 350 hostages but lost five men killed in its operations.
Perhaps its best-known operation, which was widely reported but not officially acknowledged, was when it advised the Saudi Arabian authorities on how to end the siege by fundamentalists of the Great Mosque (Kabaa) in Mecca, in 1979.Reuse content