South African soldier killed by hand grenade on UN Congo mission

A South African soldier, part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, died on Monday due to a hand grenade explosion near his sleeping quarters, according to South Africa’s military.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) stated on Tuesday that the cause of the grenade’s explosion remains unclear. A board of inquiry, including UN officials, will investigate the incident in Beni.

South African soldiers are stationed in Congo as part of the UN force MONUSCO and a separate mission deployed by the southern African regional bloc SADC to support the government in combating rebel groups.

This latest incident brings the total number of South African soldiers killed in Congo since February to at least seven. Last month, two soldiers were killed in a mortar attack on an SANDF base in Sake, and in May, one soldier died in a battle with Rwandan-backed M23 rebels. Another soldier passed away in April after treatment for unspecified health issues, and two more were killed in a mortar attack in February.

Following the February deaths, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa responded to opposition criticism, asserting that the troops in Congo were adequately equipped.

The UN force is gradually withdrawing from Congo. The first stage of this withdrawal was completed last month, but no timeline has been set for the next phase amid increasing clashes in the restive east.

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