South Africans under attack in Sudan

SA journalist describes dodging bombs, while a Denel Mechem employee is arrested.


JOHANNESBURG - A South African television journalist described how she and her cameraman came under attack from Sudanese forces, while reporting on the conflict in south Sudan.

eNews reporter Robyn Kriel and cameraman Orto Sori were travelling with the south Sudanese army in the unity state when eight bombs were dropped near them and gunfire erupted around them.

Sudan and its southern neighbour are currently in conflict over disputed borders and oilfields.

Kriel said it was a frightening experience, "We ran around feeling very exposed and finally dived into trenches.

"We waited out the gunfire there. It was absolutely terrifying."

Kriel admitted it had been very difficult to find information on the South African and three other foreigners who were captured by Sudanese militia, while engaged in demining activities for Denel Mechem.

But, the South African demining company Denel Mechem, confirmed its employees who were arrested by Sudanese officials were safe in Khartoum.

One of the employees, 28-year-old Thabo Siave from Pretoria, was taken into custody during a humanitarian operation at the weekend.

He was arrested along with south Sudanese, British and Norwegian nationals who all work for the company.

They were part of a United Nations demining operation in south Sudan.

Sudanese media reported that the men were in armoured vehicles and were suspected of aiding south Sudan in the ongoing conflict between the north and south.

But Mechem's CEO Ashley Williams vehemently denied this claim, "The specific vehicle they confiscated was a plain Casper, painted white, with a UN number plate and a big UN sign saying 'no weapons allowed on board' on the side.

"We don't know where it is now."

Williams hailed South African authorities for their swift response.

"We immediately contacted the military attaché. He immediately informed the ambassador and the ambassador spoke to us.

"He was having a meeting with his British counterpart and they were going to see the foreign affairs of the government of Sudan."