E Africa: Ex SA parabat shot, SA deminer abducted

2012-04-30 00:00

In Puntland, Lodewyk “Lood” Pietersen (55) of Klerksdorp was shot dead while working as a trainer/mentor to the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), helping to rid the town of Iskushuban in Bari province of pirates. A statement from the PMPF said the operation in the semi-autonomous Puntland region was approved by the presidency, which has ordered a thorough investigation.

In the South Sudan incident, Thabo Siavhe, a South African deminer working for Denel Mechem, together with his Sudanese driver, a Norwegian colleague and Chris Fielding, a British United Nations employee, were taken prisoner on the South Sudan side of the Heglig oilfield. They were taken to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, whose government alleged they had crossed the border illegally.

Mechem CEO Ashley Williams said yesterday they were far from the border engaged in demining a road.

He said South Sudanese soldiers manning a checkpoint alleged that two vehicles full of soldiers burst through the checkpoint, racing towards the team and taking them prisoner.

Both Fielding and the South Sudanese man have worked in the area for years and know it well, he said.

“They have full diplomatic immunity because of the work they do for the UN peacekeeping forces,” Williams said.

It is believed that the team were taken as a bargaining chip in a dispute over control of the oilfield between Sudan and its new southern neighbour. Williams said the UN is providing security for the remaining 20 members of Mechem’s demining team in the region.

The incident in Puntland happened on Friday. Pietersen was part of a team of instructors previously known as Saracen International, operating with UN approval to help train its anti-piracy task team.

Pietersen was reportedly shot by a PMPF member, but it was still unclear if it was an accident or deliberate.

The group has been engaged in an operation to drive about 60 pirates out of a number of small towns.

Pietersen was a former sergeant-major in 1 Parachute Battalion in Bloemfontein. A former colleague, Arrie Helberg, said yesterday he was shocked to hear of his death, and had been surprised to hear he had taken a job in Somalia, as he and his wife ran a successful business in Klerksdorp.

It had been a sad week for former parabats, after another ex-colleague, Sakkie van Rooyen, died in a freak incident near Pretoria.

Van Rooyen was hit by a thrown stone while riding his motorbike and then attacked by robbers. As he struggled with his attackers, he and one of them were hit by a car and killed.

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