Tanzania army employs ‘Saba Saba’ guns against M23 rebels, they were used to overthrow Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1979.
The M23 rebels have vowed a firm response to heavy artillery strikes by Tanzanian armed forces deployed in eastern Congo as part of the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC).
The M23 said Tanzanian forces were using the Multiple Rocket Launchers to strike the insurgents’ bases.
“It is important to emphasise that the M23 respects all Regional Organizations and has no particular problem with SADC, notably the Tanzania People’s Defense Forces (TPDF),” said M23 publicist Lawrence Kanyuka on Saturday.
“However, as SADC forces continue to use heavy artillery, in particular the MRLS (BM) 122 mm wielded by Tanzanian soldiers (TPDF), to bomb and kill our civilian populations, the M23 will have no other choice than to capture or neutralise these weapons,” said Kanyuka.
The Tanzanians have focused their attacks on Masisi territory, a stronghold of M23 rebels.
The BM-21 Grad, also known as ‘Saba Saba’ is a Soviet truck-mounted 122-mm multiple rocket launcher, developed in the early 1960s.
The main role of the BM-21 Grad system is to support the division with suppressive fire to counter anti-tank missile, artillery and mortar positions, destroy strong points and eliminate enemy nodes of resistance on the immediate battlefield.
Rockets armed with high explosive-fragmentation, incendiary, or chemical warheads can be fired at targets which are 20 kilometers away.
Newer high explosive and cargo rockets (used to deliver anti-personnel or antitank mines) have a range of 30 kilometers and more.
The artillery’s warheads weigh around 20 kilograms.
The Tanzanians used the ‘Saba Saba’ guns to overthrow Ugandan leader, Idi Amin in 1979.
Masisi has witnessed intense fighting between Congolese forces and M23 rebels in recent months.
The insurgents in February 2024 said they would use force to challenge President Felix Tshisekedi’s hold onto power after two top commanders were killed in deadly drone strikes.
The rebels yesterday fired at a United Nations helicopter in Eastern Congo, injuring two South African peacekeepers, one seriously.
“The helicopter from the UN Mission in the country, MONUSCO, was carrying out a medical evacuation on Friday when it came under fire from presumed members of the M23 armed group in the Karuba region, located in Masisi territory, North Kivu province,” said the UN in a news brief.
The helicopter was able to land safely in the provincial capital, Goma, and the peacekeepers received medical treatment.
MONUSCO chief Bintou Keita warned M23 that attacks against peacekeepers can constitute a war crime.