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DEADLY DEPLOYMENT

SA soldier reported killed, several wounded in fierce DRC battle with M23

SA soldier reported killed, several wounded in fierce DRC battle with M23
Soldiers from the SADC Mission in the DRC drive past locals fleeing a resumption of fighting, East of Goma, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. 7 February 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Moses Kasereka)

In a fierce clash with Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in eastern DRC, one South African soldier has died and 14 are wounded.

One South African soldier has been killed and 14 badly wounded in a major clash with Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday.

The soldiers are part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in DRC (SAMIDRC) which has been deployed in the country since December to fight armed rebel groups, mainly the M23.

The rebel group’s supporters are claiming higher casualties on social media, where they posted photos of vehicles captured and also identity cards of South African soldiers. These images could not be verified.

Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the SANDF Union said a sergeant in the SA Medical Health Service had been killed in action and 14 other SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers had been critically injured. One Mamba armoured vehicle had been destroyed or captured. The  battle, apparently also involving DRC troops, took place near the town of Sake which is about 20kms northwest of the North Kivu provincial capital Goma.

“Soldiers on the ground pleading for air support,” Greef told Daily Maverick after midnight. Later in the morning, he said the battle appeared to have ended. “All we need is a Rooivalk” he added, referring to the SANDF’s attack helicopter which played a major role in its victory over the M23 in 2013 but has not been deployed in the current mission, apparently because none are available.

Read more in Daly Maverick: Four more SADC peacekeepers killed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Supporters of the Alliance Fleuve Congo (AFC) a political group aligned to the M23 are claiming many more casualties, not only of SANDF troops but also those of Tanzania and Malawi which also have contingents in SAMIDRC. They also claim that four SAMIDRC armoured vehicles were destroyed and two captured.

But these claims could not be confirmed. Daily Maverick approached SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini on Thursday night to confirm the incident.

Late on Friday, the SANDF put out a statement confirming one fatality.

It said that two Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC’s) were damaged during the engagement.

This appears to have been the third fatal clash between SAMIDRC  and the M23.

In February two SANDF soldiers in SAMIDRC were killed and three injured in a mortar attack on their base, presumed to have been launched by M23.

In April three Tanzanian soldiers in SAMIDRC were killed and three injured in another mortar attack, on their base near Goma.

“This is going to get worse,” said Greeff. “M23 is out-arming us. They have control of the hills and are raining mortars down on us. We are outfitted for a light peacekeeping force not the intended active destruction of the enemy.”

Greeff said it was not part of his uni0n’s mandate to interfere in 0perational issues. “However we can’t ignore the information given to us by our own deployed members.” DM

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated. 

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