Special Task Force Cobra / EKO Cobra

Special Task Force Cobra / EKO Cobra (German: Einsatzkommando Cobra)
Home NationAustria
Date FoundedFounded under the name of GEK Cobra (German: Gendarmerie einsatzkommando) in 1978. 

Renamed EKO Cobra in 2002.
Key StatisticsSize: 450.

Funding: EKO Cobra’s funding falls under the budget of the Austrian Ministry of the Interior. Since 2001, it has also received funds under the EU ATLAS network

Diversity: Cobra has been open to both male and female applicants since its inception, etc.
Regimental RemitSpecialism: EKO Cobra specialises in serious tactical situations. It is officially charged with conducting special operations with a ‘medium and higher degree of risk’, such as terrorism, hostage situations, shootings, hijackings, and arrests of violent criminals. It is also trained to provide security services for the Federal Chancellor and other high-risk officials, foreign dignitaries, and to accompany Austrian diplomatic missions. Moreover, it has been deployed for security tasks at Schwechat Airport and for training services. Cobra operatives are particularly skilled at rope work.

Where are they based: Cobra’s base of operations is located in Wiener Neustadt.

Operating location(s): domestic and internationalCobra has operational field offices in Linz, Graz, and Innsbruck. Offices were opened in Klagenfurt, Salzburg, and Feldkirch-Gisingen in 2003 and in Vienna in 2005. 

Cobra forces regularly deploy with German, Italian, Swiss, and French special forces.
Noteworthy OperationsGraz-Karlau Prison Hostage Rescue, Austria, November 14, 1996 – Hostage rescue operation.

Aeroflot Tuolev Tu-154, 17 October, 1996 – Four Cobra officers were on board a flight carrying deported prisoners to Lagos when a passenger, armed with a knife, demanded that the plane divert to Germany or South Africa. Two of the officers overpowered the man with pepper spray and handed him to authorities upon landing. The incident remains the only occasion a plane hijacking was foiled mid-flight by a counter-terrorism unit.

Lebanon Rescue Operation, Beirut and Damascus, 15 July-August 2006 – Cobra officers were deployed to Lebanon to evacuate Austrian, as well as other EU citizens out of the country amid the 2006 Lebanese Civil War.

Annaberg Shooting, Annaberg, Austria, 17-18 September, 2013 – 135 Cobra officers were involved in a manhunt for Alois Huber, a local poacher who killed three police officers and one Red Cross emergency responder.

Munich Shooting, Munich, Germany, 22 July, 2016 – 42 Cobra officers responded to a German request for assistance after a mass shooting in Munich.

2017 Hamburg G20 Summit Riots, Hamburg, Germany, 6-9 July, 2016 – Following violent protests in Hamburg over the 2017 G20 Summit, 20 Cobra officers were sent to support German riot police. Three officers were wounded.

2020 Vienna Attack, Vienna, Austria, 2 November, 2020 – Cobra officers participated in the search for the gunman responsible for the Islamist terrorist attack in Vienna.
Any ScandalsCobra-Gate, 2022 – An anonymous letter from a Cobra officer detailed widespread misuse of Cobra VIP protection by public officials, sparking a parliamentary inquiry into the affair, dubbed ‘cobra-gate’ by Austrian media.

Directorate of Special Forces (DSE) officials were accused of exploiting their position to acquire ‘baby-sitting services’ from Cobra officers for their families. Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer became embroiled in the scandal, as he reportedly had a team of 30 officers charged with daily tasks for his family, such as picking up parcels and documents, collecting PCR tests, bringing suits to laundromats, and driving Nehammer’s children to sports events.

Moreover, on 13th March, 2022, two heavily intoxicated Cobra officers caused an accident outside the Chancellor’s apartment while on protective duty for the Chancellor’s wife. Mrs. Neuhammer was alleged to have drank with the officers in the apartment beforehand. Although he was not present at the time, Neuhammer, along with Cobra director Bernhard Treibenreif, was accused of being involved in a cover-up attempt. Disciplinary proceedings are ongoing.