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File photo of a Rooivalk firing 70mm FFAR rockets. (Photo: Dean Wingrin)

Rooivalk in Christmas Day DRC action

Date: 26 December 2013

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By Dean Wingrin

For the second time since arriving in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the end of October, SAAF attack helicopters have been requested by the UN to attack rebel positions.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-Nalu), an Islamist Ugandan rebel group, attacked FARDC (DRC army) positions at the border town of Kamango on 25 December at around 0500B. The rebels captured the town after brief clashes, resulting in civilian casualties and a massive displacement of civilian populations towards the Ugandan border.

FARDC thereafter requested the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to respond to the repeated attacks by the ADF. Two South African Air Force (SAAF) Rooivalk attack helicopters were launched at 09h45 from Goma to Kamango to conduct an armed reconnaissance in accordance to MONUSCO's Rules of Engagement. Two Rooivalk helicopters were again launched at 15h50 and in a coordinated operation with FARDC troops on the ground, opened fire on an ADF held position. Later in the afternoon, FARDC confirmed that it had successfully taken over positions in Kamango and was in control of situation.

"South African helicopters in the UN intervention force were asked by FARDC to give them support to recapture Kamango," said a senior UN MONUSCO officer who declined to be identified by name.

According to a MONUSCO spokesperson, FARDC has confirmed twelve fatal casualties (five FARDC and seven civilians) and thirteen injured (five FARDC and eight civilians) in the operations. MONUSCO were also supporting FARDC medical evacuations.

Three SAAF Rooivalk helicopters, belonging to 16 Squadron were airlifted to the DRC at the end of October, forming part of the aviation unit of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi's soldiers are all part of the United Nations (UN) intervention brigade to bring the various rebel groups operating in the east of the DRC under control.

This is the Rooivalks' first operational deployment and their first combat mission, in which they played a decisive factor in the surrender of the DRC M23 rebel group, occurred on 4 November.


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