SA peacekeepers were pinned down by heavy weapons fire

2012-10-19 00:00

THE South African peacekeeping soldier who was killed in Darfur, Sudan, on Wednesday, was pinned down in an ambush for some 40 minutes by militia using mortars, AK47s and even anti-aircraft canons and an anti-tank canon.

Sister paper Beeld learned from a reliable source that the devastating fire destroyed their Land Cruisers as well as a Mamba armoured vehicle.

Private Vincent van der Walt from Klerksdorp died in the ambush. Corporal K. B. Sebe and private T. S. Makhetha were wounded. All three were stationed with 10 SA Infantry battalion at Mafikeng.

They were part of a group of 110 South African peacekeepers and a senior delegation from Unamid, the combined African Union and United Nations (UN) force in Darfur whose convoy of 16 vehicles was ambushed.

The attack took place at about 10 am on the road to the Hashaba community, 70 km north east of Kutum in Darfur.

General W. Kisanga, the deputy commander of Unamid in the area and Brigadier-General Tedla, the commander of the northern sector, as well as a group of military observers from the UN, were on a fact-finding mission in the area, in which some 70 civilians had been killed during recent air attacks.

The South Africans, in Mambas and soft-bodied vehicles and an Mfezi armoured ambulance, accompanied them.

Beeld has information that the group were warned that they were entering a very dangerous area.

Some 10  km before Hashaba at Damra Gurba, militia stopped the convoy and refused the group entry, after which the convoy took an alternate route.

A short while later an unknown, heavily-armed group started firing from a height on the convoy, which turned around to take the generals to safety.

In the process, some of the soldiers apparently remained behind because their Land Cruisers were immobilised by enemy fire.

When the retreating convoy halted, they realised a few soldiers had been left behind and were fighting for their lives against an overwhelming force.

Mambas, a recovery vehicle and the Mfezi ambulance were sent back to the ambush, where a firefight continued for another 30 minutes.

It is unclear when the three soldiers were wounded.

One of the Mambas was blown to pieces after being hit several times by rocket-propelled grenades.

After the ambush, the militia retreated into the mountains, leaving medical personnel to evacuate the wounded soldiers in the Mfezi.

The wounded soldiers are being treated in hospital in El-Fasher.

The army yesterday confirmed the incident, while the SA government and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, condemned the ambush “in the strongest possible” terms.

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