Last year a South African Special Forces operator chalked up the 6th longest range kill in history against M23 rebels in the Congo, but with the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) remaining quiet, the story has not been told until now.
Taking their name from the failed peace agreement signed with the government on March 23, 2009, the M23 rebels have committed war crimes throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Citing poor conditions and lack of pay from the government after the peace treaty was signed, M23 also shared an ethnic identity (Tutsi) with those across the border in Rwanda, a country which has helped M23 stir up trouble.
With M23 going on a rampage that included murders, rapes, and the use of child soldiers, the United Nations Security Council authorized an international force in the DRC to go on the offensive. Secretary Ban-Ki Moon said at the time that the UN was taking part in a, “comprehensive approach aimed at addressing the root causes of instability in the eastern DRC and the Great Lakes region.” To that end, a Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) consisting of troops from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi was deployed to the DRC to participate in combat operations.
While South Africa has not sought to publicize the fact, they deployed Special Forces soldiers as part of a reconnaissance team attached to 6 South African Infantry. Amongst them was a Special Forces sniper whose name SOFREP has been asked to withhold, so we will simply refer to him by his rank, The Captain.
Previously deployed to Haiti, Jamaica, and Sudan, The Captain joined 51 Commando of the 5th Special Forces Regiment in 2005 after completing his selection and training courses. He then went on to graduate from the sniper, recon, and sniper instructor courses. It should also be noted that he is a black South African. The Captain was deployed to the DRC in July of 2013 as a Team Leader and Sniper.
Based in Munigi, the FIB came under fire from 82mm mortars and 107mm rockets in August. This caused the South African forces to establish an Observation Position (OP) on a nearby hill that afforded their observers situational awareness of M23 positions, including an extinct volcano to the north of the town of Kibiti, known as the Triple Towers due to the three telecommunications towers now standing on the peaks.
The M23 rebels then occupied one of the craters at the Triple Towers with their 122mm and 107mm rockets, the same systems used to engage by the DRC military and the FIB. The South Africans and Tanzanians deployed conventional forces, but 6 SAI also deployed sniper teams to their previously established OP. The Captain arrived with his spotter at the OP on August 13 and was briefed by the officer in charge about potential enemy targets at the crater and Triple Towers at a range of approximately 1,400 meters.
The Captain attempted to engage the enemy targets with his 14.5 Denel NTR sniper rifle, but he and his spotter were unable to determine if they had successfully engaged the enemy due to the amount of debris and smoke drifting around the battlefield. They then got on top of a Mamba Armored Personnel Carrier to try to get a better angle of fire.
Identifying more enemy positions, the spotter found that they were beyond the limits of their equipment to measure. His laser range finder only worked out to 900 meters. The Captain then used the mil-dot reticule system in his scope to range out the enemy targets at 2125 meters. The target was a group of M23 rebels loitering around casually. The Captain fired two shots and his spotter observed two M23 rebels immediately collapse while the remaining rebels dove for cover.
On August 26, it was confirmed that the Sniper/Spotter team had actually killed six M23 rebels with their shots from the OP, including the weapons specialist in charge of running the rocket launchers. The Captain is said to hold the world’s sixth longest sniper kill in history. Several days later, the Captain and his spotter each killed M23 rebels in another engagement. The Captain was also wounded by mortar fire but refused to be sent home and returned to the front lines.
While SANDF and the South African government have tried to keep the Captain and his spotter’s extraordinary efforts under wraps, their engagements again demonstrate the effectiveness of well-trained snipers on the battlefield. The sniper is a force multiplier, picking off enemies at long range with precision fire, while psychologically demoralizing those left alive. The Captain has had an impressive career in the South African military and one can hope that he is still out there doing good work for the African people.