EOKA Cyprus

Extremists supporting ‘Enosis’ Union with Greece on the island of Cyprus in 1955 formed a terrorist organization called EOKA (The National Union of Cypriot Combatants), between 1954-5. Colonel Grivas, a Greek Army officer during the Second World War led it and opened a campaign of terror in late 1955.

Cyprus had belonged to the Ottoman Empire and was annexed by the British during the First World War. It was created a British Crown Colony in 1925. Enosis was entirely unacceptable to Turkey because of the strategic location of the island and she threatened it with annexation in 1954. When Greece rejected a power-sharing solution between herself, Britain and Turkey, Greek Cypriots, who outnumbered their Turkish counterparts by four to one, took this to mean tacit Greek support for union.

EOKA waged a pitiless campaign of terror against Cypriots to suppress any opposition, even passive. Selected muktars or village headmen and unarmed constables were murdered, frequently drenched in petrol and burned alive before their families. People were intimidated against speaking with the security forces. The reign of terror spread to include Turks and off-duty British servicemen.

16 Parachute Brigade arrived in 1956 and directed counter-terrorist operations against EOKA in their identified enclaves within the Paphos Forest and Kyrenian and Troodos mountain ranges. 3 PARA arrested Archbishop Makarios, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus in January because of his support for the EOKA campaign to achieve Enosis. He was exiled.

A process of relentless attrition against EOKA followed conducted by numerous British Army units. This was not without cost, but led to the capture or elimination of leading hard-core terrorists and the recovery of substantial quantities of arms and ammunition. Grivas only narrowly escaped capture, but his organization was fundamentally weakened by 1957.

A truce eventually paved the way for political discussions and Cyprus was declared a Republic in 1960. EOKA became less the issue, rather the factional in-fighting between the Turkish and Greek communities that led to the introduction of a United Nations Force to keep them apart.

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