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Netwerk24 revealed that about 1 400 South African soldiers in Darfur were held “hostage” by Sudanese troops when the drama around Al-Bashir’s possible arrest in South Africa escalated.
According to military experts, this effectively means Sudan blackmailed South Africa and the soldiers’ lives served as a guarantee for Al-Bashir’s safe return.
Only after Al-Bashir safely touched down in Khartoum on Monday, were Sudanese troops withdrawn. President Jacob Zuma is the commander-in-chief of the defence force.
“We were so scared – we were surrounded by soldiers. We handed out extra ammunition to all our troops in case they needed it,” said one South African soldier in Sudan on Tuesday.
The deployment of Sudanese troops and threats against South Africa started shortly after Al-Bashir left for the African Union summit in Sandton, Johannesburg. He arrived on Saturday night. Heavily armed Sudanese soldiers surrounded military bases in Kutum, Mellit, and Malha. South African troops were placed in a state of combat readiness.
“Vehicles approached our bases and the commander placed us on Stage 2 of readiness,” said another soldier. This meant all troops had to be in combat gear, fully armed, and positioned in bunkers and against embankments.
Another soldier said if the situation got out of hand, “we would have had to surrender to save our lives, because you can’t fight a country’s army with a poorly equipped battalion”.