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South African soldiers killed in DR Congo attack

February 15, 2024

Two South African soldiers were killed and three were wounded during a mortar strike in DR Congo, the South African military said, adding that the details were "still sketchy."

Soliders holding weapons and wearing helmuts and camouflage uniforms sit in the back of an army truck, which is driving down a dirt road
South African forces, like the ones pictured on deployment in Mozambique in 2021, are on a mission in east DRCImage: ALFREDO ZUNIGA/AFP

South Africa's mission to help bring peace and security to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has gotten off to a deadly start.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on Thursday said that two of its soldiers had been killed in a mortar strike near the eastern city of Goma.

The SANDF said that three more soldiers were injured in the attack, which took place on Wednesday.

"A mortar landed inside one of the South African contingent military bases inflicting casualties and injuries to the SANDF soldiers," the South African military said in a statement.

The injured were taken to the closest hospital in Goma, the SANDF said.

The SANDF said that details surrounding the attack "are still sketchy" and that further investigation would take place to determine what happened.

SA's first fatalities on mission to DRC

The deaths are the first fatalities to take place within the Southern African Development Community Mission in the DRC (SMIDRC). South Africa had deployed 2,900 South African forces to assist Kinshasa to bring peace, stability and security to the region.

DRC has been struggling to contain armed militias. The mainly-Tutsi M23 rebel group has managed to capture large parts of North Kivu since reemerging in 2022, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

Fighting has intensified in recent days around the strategic town of Sake, which lies about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Goma.

Earlier in the week, South Africa's official political opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of being "reckless" for ordering the deployment of South African forces. The DA said South African forces lacked enough air support and would be "sitting ducks" against the M23 rebels.

East African leaders demand cease-fire in eastern Congo

Similar scrutiny from 2013 mission

Similar criticism was leveled against former President Jacob Zuma's administration for the deployment of forces to the Central African Republic in 2013.

The so-called "Battle of Bangui," saw around 200 South African soldiers involved in a pitched battle against Seleka rebels numbering in the thousands.

The South African contingent had no air support, limited ammunition and had to fight off a vastly bigger attacking force for hours.

Fifteen South African paratroopers and special forces soldiers were killed, while hundreds of Seleka rebels were killed and wounded.

kb/dj (AFP, Reuters)