Founder of Polish special forces unit found shot dead in Warsaw

Slawomir Petelicki
Polish authorities have launched an official investigation into the death of a senior retired military intelligence officer who founded Poland’s best-known special forces unit. The body of Brigadier General Slawomir Petelicki, who held senior intelligence positions in both communist and post-communist Poland, was discovered by his wife on Saturday. It was reportedly lying on a pool of blood on the floor of the garage located under his apartment in the Mokotow district of Polish capital Warsaw. Polish media said on Monday that Petelicki’s body carried a single gunshot wound to the head and that a gun was found at the site. Petelicki, 66, had joined Poland’s Ministry of Internal Affairs in 1969 and was soon afterwards posted as a “Military Attaché” at the Polish consulate in New York. He later served in a similar capacity at the Polish embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as in China and North Vietnam, among other countries. He managed to survive the post-communist purges in Poland’s intelligence community, and in 1990 he was assigned to a brand new special forces unit codenamed JW 2305. Through his leadership, the obscure unit was eventually transformed into the GROM (meaning ‘thunder’ in Polish) Special Forces regiment, which he led from 1990 until 1995. Initially, the existence of GROM was kept secret and was not openly acknowledged by the Polish government until 1994. Polish authorities said on Monday that they were treating Petelicki’s death as a case of suspected suicide. But many of the late intelligence officer’s colleagues and friends have voiced skepticism about the alleged suicide, claiming that the Brigadier General had not seemed depressed, and that he was not the kind of person who would contemplate taking his own life. One of Petelicki’s close friends, Polish politician Marek Siwiec, told Polish media that, for him, “suicide doesn’t quite fit”. Poland’s former Prime Minister Leszek Miller added that, in his view, “men like [Petelicki] don’t commit suicide”. A spokeswoman from the Warsaw District Prosecution said on Monday that the late intelligence officer’s body had been taken to a forensic laboratory for a post-mortem analysis. The results are expected later this week.

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