Nigerian ECOMOG artillerymen prepare to swing into action during the Battle of Freetown II, 10 January 1999 (photo credit: NEW YORK TIMES)
Kabbah finally agreed that EO should locate RUF HQ that Sankoh was using and destroy it..the base was situated deep in the Kambui Hills in Kenema District – also known as Zagoda – in the southeast of Sierra Leone.
The attack plan was formulated and our men..gathered in Kenema where the drills, briefings, orders and rehearsals took place.
Supporting the operation would be two companies of SLA infantry, a detachment of Kamajors and an artillery battery of Nigerian 105mm howitzers. The EO teams were to be primarily deployed in stopper groups. Neels Britz, our senior artillery officer, would accompany the Nigerian artillery and act as their ground control officer to relay the fire-control orders from the airborne FOO(an EO Cessna, emphasis mine)
By 15 November(1996)..the attack commenced with a three-day intermittent artillery bombardment. Circling the area in the Cessna, the FOO called for the first 105mm shell to be fired into the RUF base. He needed a reference point to enable accurate fire adjustments to be made.
The first 105mm shell served as more than a ‘sighter’. It landed on a large sand model of Sierra Leone, killing the entire RUF High Command who were sitting around the model, discussing the next phase of their terror campaign.
Noting the impact zone, the order was relayed to Neels to ‘fire for effect’ and the Nigerian artillery commenced its bombardment. For three days the rebels were pinned down by accurate artillery fire. Those trying to escape ran into our men in their stopper-group positions and were either cut down or surrendered.
Over the coming days, hundreds of RUF members were killed or taken prisoner. Many more demoralised and wounded rebels surrendered to the SLA in Kenema and Bo.
Mohammed Tarawalay, effectively Sankoh’s second-in-command was either killed or lost his desire to fight. His radio messages and call-sign were never heard again.
In broad operational terms, the plan was to use 70 EO men supported by SLA infantry units and elements of the Nigerian Artillery and Air Force…By January 1996..it was time to visit the Kangari Hills..The Nigerian BM-21s were deployed and barrels laid. At Lungi, two Nigerian Alpha jets armed with rockets and bombs were placed on standby to await their strike orders.
When H-Hour arrived, the attack began with a long-range rocket bombardment mounted by the Nigerian BM-21s. Adjustments to their strike were done by Renier who was circling the strike area in the Cessna.
Shortly afterwards, the Alpha jets swooped over the area and released their bombs. Watching from above, Renier was perplexed to see that none of the bombs exploded, although they seemed to be on target.
The BM-21 strike was on target however and the RUF were unable to defend themselves from the chaos created by the rockets.