Three South African soldiers have been injured in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in an attack by an armed group.
The soldiers, who had been serving as part of the UN force in the DRC for six months, are all in a stable condition and are being treated at a hospital in Goma, the SANDF confirmed on Thursday. One was seriously wounded while the other two sustained minor injuries.
The SANDF could not provide details of Wednesday’s attack but confirmed that the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) rebel group launched the assault. Monusco (The UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC), has launched a counter-strike with attack helicopters.
South Africa has about 1 000 soldiers serving with Monusco and forces have been in the region for 12 years, said Captain Jaco Theunissen, an SANDF spokesman.
He said the attack did not specifically target South African forces and SANDF troops would remain in the region.
“We’ve fought bravely,” Theunissen said. “We don’t have any serious casualties.”
President Jacob Zuma was briefed by the defence minister and was kept aware of developments in the region, said Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj.
The mission “remains firmly on course”, he wrote in an e-mail.
Violence from armed rebel groups is common in the eastern region of the DRC where SANDF soldiers were attacked. Monusco works with the Congolese army to quell violence in the region.
South Africa sends soldiers to the DRC to serve the UN Force Intervention Brigade, along with Tanzania and Malawi. The force works under Monusco to protect civilians in the DRC.
APCLS is one of three main rebel groups in the eastern region. In March, the intervention brigade and Congolese army forced the group out of control in the town of Lukweti, which the group used as a headquarters. The group is now launching counter-attacks.
The UN force poses a military threat to rebel groups as recently it has focused on pushing them out of control in DRC, said Darren Olivier, a senior correspondent for African Defence Review.
The groups lose crucial tax revenue when they lose control of an area and they will likely continue to fight back, he said.
“The attack yesterday was very bold,” Olivier said. “This may be a sign of desperation being that they have lost their stronghold.”
The group, led by General Janvier Karairi, is believed to comprise about 500 members mostly from the Hunde ethnic group.