South Africa’s presidential jet damaged
South Africa’s presidential jet aircraft, a Boeing 737 BBJ, operated by the VIP transport squadron (21 Squadron) of the South African Air Force (SAAF), was badly damaged on 6 February.
The United Nations liveried helicopter was flying a supply operation for the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) peace support mission in the east of the DRC.
In the attack, believed to be perpetrated by M23 rebels operating in the area, the flight engineer Sergeant Vusi Mabena was killed with the commander Major Omolemo Matlapang suffering a serious shoulder wound. Co-pilot Captain Mathew Allan flew the helicopter safely to base, where a single bullet hole was noticed in the right-hand windscreen.
Questions are being asked why the Oryx was not accompanied by South Africa’s Rooivalk attack helicopters that are also deployed in the DRC. There are also concerns around the UN’s prescribed operating procedures that the SAAF has to adhere to on such missions. In this instance, the Oryx flew a predictable route on a fixed time schedule, which enabled a sniper to lie in wait.
For her part, MONUSCO chief Bintou Keita strongly condemned “this cowardly attack on an aircraft bearing the UN emblem”, adding that “attacks against peacekeepers can constitute a war crime.”
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