Two SANDF soldiers killed in latest DRC attack and 20 injured

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M23 rebels on Tuesday attacked the town of Sake in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), resulting in the deaths of two South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers. Twenty more were injured.

The SANDF in a statement on Wednesday confirmed a mortar attack on a South African base in Sake on 25 June “which resulted in two fatalities and twenty injured. Four members who were critically injured have been hospitalized, whilst the rest who suffered minor injuries are expected to be discharged soon.”

defenceWeb understand that a Captain from 46 Brigade Headquarters and a Captain from the Air Defence Artillery Formation were killed in the incident.

Department of Defence Head of Communication Siphiwe Dlamini said families of the two members who lost their lives have been informed and all procedures to bring their mortal remains are in process. The names of the deceased will be communicated in due course.

Unverified sources indicate at least two M23 attacks on Sake on Tuesday, with one in the morning and another in the evening, with rebels making use of mortars to attack SANDF and Congolese Army (FARDC) positions.

Local reports claim FARDC elements along with Wazalendo militia were able to repel the M23 attacks on Sake after fierce fighting.

Located some 20 km from the capital city of North Kivu Province Goma, Sake has been largely deserted for months following previous attacks. On 30 May, South African soldiers serving with the Southern African Development Community Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC) came into contact with the M23 at Sake, with at least 13 injured and one killed as well as two APCs damaged. One Tanzanian soldier was also apparently killed and seven wounded along with a dozen M23 rebels killed.

Last month’s attack on Sake began with the M23 bombarding the area, followed by FARDC, SAMIDRC and Wazelendo militia launching a counterattack, although the M23 claim government/SAMIDRC forces attacked first. A South African Mfezi armoured ambulance was damaged in the ensuing firefight, and a Casspir and Mamba damaged or abandoned along with a Tanzanian IVECO truck carrying ammunition. Subsequent video purported to show the Casspir being driven away by the rebels.

A day later, the M23 released a statement claiming that its fighters had attacked and set on fire an armoured vehicle belonging to the SANDF in Mubambiro, on the outskirts of Goma, and shared a video of smoke emanating from the vehicle while parked on base. The M23 said SAMIDRC vehicles were subsequently evacuated to the Goma city centre.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed up to 2 900 SANDF soldiers to SAMIDRC until mid-December. SAMIDRC will fill much of the gap left by the departure this year of the United Nations mission (MONUSCO) in the DRC. Apart from confirmation of 2 900 South African military personnel being contributed under Operation Thiba at a cost of R2.37 billion, there is no information from the SADC on Malawian and Tanzanian troop numbers that will make up the rest of the 5 000-strong SAMIDRC force.

The SANDF’s deployment with SAMIDRC got off to a shaky start when two soldiers were killed and three injured in an M23 mortar attack on a base on 14 February.

Experts are deeply concerned about the latest SANDF deployment, cautioning that troops are under-equipped for the task and at unnecessary risk as they are facing a well-organised and well-armed rebel group. South Africa has not sent air support, leaving soldiers far more vulnerable and little better equipped than the rebels as a result.