SAS soldier hired to kill Pablo Escobar nearly decapitated during daring mission

A former SAS soldier who was hired to assassinate feared drug lord Pablo Escobar was almost decapitated after his squad’s helicopter crashed in the jungle.

Peter McAleese was hired by the Cali Cartel, a rival Colombian gang, to take out the Medellin Cartel boss in 1989.

The Scottish mercenary, now 78, assembled a hit squad made up of 12 soldiers and carried out 11 weeks of gruelling training in the Colombian jungle.

McAleese had previously served in Britain’s Parachute Regiment, the SAS, Rhodesia’s SAS and the South African Defence Force.

His unit was eventually able to pinpoint Escobar’s location, but the mission ultimately proved a failure after bad weather led to a helicopter crash.

The squad tried to take him out a second time, but the crime boss became extra cautious and they were unable to track him down.

Describing the crash, McAleese told Vice News: “Flying through the jungle upside down was exciting, but once we were on the ground it was all about survival.

“I was very fortunate, as I’d done a couple of combat survival courses when in the British army, and that training had stayed with me.

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“I knew how important it was to stay in the helicopter until the blades stop turning – if you exit when they’re still moving, the blades will chop your head off.

“So I told the guys that. The blade came through the cab, missed me and got the pilot. I was extremely lucky.”

McAleese had planned to “bomb key sites” during the operation and didn’t expect to lose any men if things went smoothly.

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He said that women and children would have been “left alone”, and that they would have only gone after the “bandits”.

Escobar was eventually killed in a shootout with Colombian police in December 1993 after his gang was virtually wiped out.

A new documentary, Killing Escobar, will focus on McAleese’s mission and provide never-before-seen footage of the daring assignment.

Mick McAvoy, Head of Factual at production firm Two Rivers Media, said: This film tells the unlikely tale of how a man from the East End of Glasgow was asked to bring together a team of ex-special forces operatives to travel to the very heart of the criminal empire of the world’s most dangerous man in order to assassinate him.”

It will premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on March 7 and air on BBC Scotland later this year.

Filmmaker David Whitney told the Daily Record: “When my editor and I sat and watched the footage that the men had filmed of their mission we were amazed by the breadth and quality – it was a gold mine.

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"It’s been a long, difficult journey to get Killing Escobar to the screen but I hope audiences will be as thrilled by this incredible true story as I was.”

The 90-minute film contains archives from McAleese’s life, as well as interviews with other key participants in the story, such as fellow mercenary Dave Tomkins, DEA officers Javier Peña and Steve Murphy – the subjects of Netflix’s hit series Narcos.

It also features McAleese’s Cali Cartel liaison Jorge Salcedo, whose experiences in Colombia also inspired theNetflixseries.

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