Johannesburg - Unknown gunmen shot at and slightly damaged a South African Oryx helicopter while it was flying the Monusco force commander over the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN mission reacted with outrage, promising action.

On Tuesday, the SANDF confirmed the incident, which took place on Monday.

Nobody was injured.

The SANDF Oryx was flying in the far north-east of the DRC with the Monusco force commander, Lieutenant-General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, from Brazil, on board. Monusco is the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC.

SANDF spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Piet Paxton said several shots from a small-calibre weapon were fired at the Oryx while it was flying between the towns of Beni and Bunia.

“One bullet hit the fuel tank, causing a minor fuel leak. The pilot managed to fly safely out of the danger zone and landed at the Mavivi Airport near Beni,” said Paxton. “The origin of the gunfire and who is responsible for that is under investigation by Monusco.”

The head of Monusco, Martin Kobler, called the attack unacceptable. “I strongly condemn the firing at one of our helicopters in Beni territory,” he said.

“This targeted attack against United Nations personnel is unacceptable and intolerable. We will not be deterred in our active protection of civilians. The attackers will be pursued with maximum efforts and minimum tolerance within the rules of engagement,” he said.

It wasn’t clear who shot at the Oryx, although it was assumed to be rebels, as the helicopters are painted white and marked with UN logos for the UN deployment.

“I think it was a potshot,” said Paxton.

It wasn’t clear how many people were on board, but he said they would have included at least three SANDF members.

As the SANDF is part of the UN mission, the UN will investigate.

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The Star