/ 29 August 2013

SANDF: No SA soldiers killed in DRC

The SANDF says reports that some SA soldiers have been killed are propaganda.

No South African soldiers have been killed or seriously injured in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said on Wednesday.

Reports that SANDF troops were injured or killed should be dismissed as propaganda, Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said in a statement.

"This is just mere propaganda and psychological warfare from the rebel forces who want to portray their so called success against the DRC government troops."

Mabanga said there were clashes between the M23 rebels and the armed forces of the DRC on Saturday.

"During these clashes it happened that a mortar bomb fell close to the base where the SANDF members and Tanzanian People's Defence Force (TPDF) members, part of the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), is located.

"The FIB members suffered minor injuries from shrapnel or splinters from the bombs causing, minor injuries to one SANDF member and two TPDF members," he said.

Mabanga said the SANDF intended holding a media briefing to update the public about its participation in the FIB.

Last week, President Jacob Zuma informed Parliament that 1 345 soldiers had been deployed to the DRC.

The South African National Defence Union (Sandu) said it wished the injured a speedy recovery.

"To those fighting M23 rebels, Godspeed and good luck, your bravery is an inspiration to us all," said secretary Pikkie Greeff.

He said soldiers had raised concerns that they were promised Gripens and Rooivalks when they left, but that the helicopters had not arrived in the DRC.

Meanwhile, the UN's landmark new offensive intervention brigade suffered its first fatality Wednesday when a Tanzanian soldier was killed by rebels in eastern DRC, a spokesperson said.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters the peacekeeper was killed and three others were wounded in a battle with M23 rebels near the key eastern city of Goma.

Offensive peacekeeping mandate
The peacekeeper was a Tanzanian member of the Force Intervention Brigade, a kind of UN special forces set up this year to counter armed groups in DRC, a UN peacekeeping spokesperson said.

The brigade, which will eventually have 3 000 troops, is the first to be given an offensive peacekeeping mandate by the UN Security Council.

The DRC army and UN troops launched an operation on Wednesday against the M23, who have been battling government forces around Goma since March last year.

The rebels have used positions on hills north of Goma to launch artillery attacks on the city.

In the battle in which the Tanzanian soldier was killed, UN troops, including from the intervention brigade, fired mortars and used attack helicopters.

The soldier was killed when "the M23 directed artillery fire on a United Nations position close to Kibati heights," said a UN statement.

"I am outraged by today's killing of a United Nations peacekeeper from Tanzania by the M23", said Martin Kobler, head of the UN mission in DRC. – Sapa, AFP