A South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx medium transport helicopter was hit by three to four rounds of small arms fire yesterday, 4 May 2015, between 11:45 and 12:15 local time near Beni in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to information provided by Lt Col Piet Paxton, SANDF Joint Operations spokesperson.

The helicopter was flying the MONUSCO Force Commander, Lt Gen Santos Cruz, on a routine visit to the Bunia area of operations when several shots from a small calibre weapon were fired at it from unidentified gunmen on the ground between Kazaroho and Sesele. One of the projectiles penetrated an internal fuel tank, causing a small fuel leak. The aircraft commander took evasive action, flew out of the danger zone and diverted to Beni Mavivi Airport (FNZP).

The damage to the aircraft is minor and the crew will attempt to make field repairs to the fuel tank before returning to Goma, failing which the crew will isolate the leaking tank and return to Goma on the aircraft’s remaining three fuel tanks. None of the passengers or aircrew were harmed and are safe on the ground at Beni Mavivi Airport.

The Force Commander scrambled a pair of Ukrainian Mi-24P attack helicopters to the area in an attempt to identify the source of fire, but no clear information was gathered and no airstrikes were carried out. MONUSCO is now carrying out an investigation into who is responsible for the shooting.

The aircraft involved was 1213, UN serial 820.

Position of the incident according to information available to African Defence Review.