Mercenary Update

They’re still there. Most of the mercenaries who were planning to mount a coup in Equatorial Guinea are still stewing in Chikurubi prison in Zimbabwe. I’ve been keeping an eye on the story for a while, waiting for major developements; in the absence of those, here are some minor ones.

The mercenaries in Zimbabwe are being tried on a number of charges related to weapons smuggling that could put them away for several years, but won’t carry the death penalty. Equatorial Guinea has an extradition request pending for all of them; if they get sent there, they will face the death penalty, like their fellows in the advance force who are already being held there. You know you’re in trouble when being tried by Robert Mugabe’s government isn’t even your worst option. What they really want, of course, and what their lawyers were working on hard on for a while, was getting South Africa to extradite them back home, on grounds that many are SA citizens, and that their activities were in violation of SA law regarding mercenary activity. South Africa also has pressure to extradite coming from the families of the mercenaries. It hasn’t happened yet, though, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to. (One of the myriad rumors flying around about why the mercs were caught is that it was the South African government itself that tipped off Zimbabwe.)

From the outset it was known that Simon Mann and several of the others in charge of the operation were career mercs going back to Executive Outcomes, the now-defunct PMC that fragmented into Northbridge, Sandline, and probably others. It has since become clear that most of those arrested were former members of 32 Battalion, an apartheid-era special forces unit that consisted mainly of dissident Angolans, most of whom (not surprisingly) signed up with EO post-apartheid. (See this BBC article for more on the village where many of them come from.)

In the “why are we surprised by this any more?” department, it now appears that some of the imprisoned mercs worked for the Brits in Iraq. The firm in question this time is called Meteoric Tactical Solutions; add it to the long and growing list of private contractors whose employees have been found embroiled in illegal and/or reprehensible activities. You can still see Lourens Horn, one of the prisoners, listed as the contact for MTS at the Iraqi Business Center website.

I’m hoping South Africa does decide to extradite them, because everybody deserves a fair trial—something they’re not likely to get in Zim or in EG. And because, out of selfish curiosity, I want to know the whole story of their plan and who backed it and why they were caught, and that’s not likely to happen anywhere but SA either. Whatever happens, though, isn’t likely to happen any time soon.