AN SAS legend who was tasked with killing the world's biggest drugs baron has died, aged 81.

While living in Hereford, Peter McAleese was hired by a rival Colombian drug cartel to lead a small team of ex-special forces commandos on a mission to kill Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord in 1989.

Known as Operation Phoenix, the attack plan involved two helicopters flying into the compound at Hacienda Napoles as the mercenaries shot their way through Escobar's massive security operation to kill the drug lord.


The helicopter carrying him crashed as it flew low through the clouds over the Andes, killing the pilot.

The mission would end up being called off.

He had received serious injuries to his ribs and lay near the crash site for three days whilst his men searched for help.

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Raised under the watchful eye of Barlinne, Mr McAleese enjoyed a chequered military career, serving in Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – and South Africa, before training bodyguards in Moscow and working with security forces in Algeria and Iraq.

His extraordinary life was retold in his book, No Mean Soldier, as well as a film, called Killing Escobar.

Released two years ago, the film used video and pictures taken by the team of 12 mercenaries on the mission, with dramatic reconstruction of the helicopter assault on Escobar's hacienda in 1989, with interviews of many involved.

"You don’t get asked to assassinate Pablo Escobar unless you have the right experience,” said Mr McAleese.

However, the film also shone the spotlight on his lesser-known tales.

As well as the mission, Mr McAleese opened up about his marriage and how he struggled to make his family life work.

The film was directed by David Whitney, who said it was one of his favourite projects he has ever worked on.