November 20, 2009 / 5:33 PM / 8 years ago

S.Africans are among Guinea mercenaries - sources

* South Africans amongst military contractors in Guinea

* Men training militia, overseeing arms deliveries -sources

By David Lewis

DAKAR, Nov 20 (Reuters) - South Africans are amongst a group of mercenaries working for Guinea’s military junta, according to security sources and copies of emails seen by Reuters on Friday.

The bulk of them have been sent to the West African nation by Dubai-based businessmen, the sources said. As well as military training, their job is to ensure the arrival of arms acquired by the junta from Ukraine in defiance of an arms embargo.

Guinea’s military regime is facing international sanctions and demands that it hand over power to civilian rule after a Sept. 28 crackdown on opposition protesters in which witnesses said more than 150 people were killed and women were raped.

South Africa announced this week it was checking reports that its nationals have been hired to train a force for Guinea’s junta, and there have been separate reports that Israelis and Ukrainians are involved in helping the government.

“They couldn’t get enough people to do the job, so that is why there is a mix of people doing the job,” said Henri Boshoff, a military analyst who served in the South African army, citing information in intelligence circles.

“(The South Africans) were very desperate. They are not being very well paid.”

Two security sources also said that South Africans were currently in Guinea.

“There are definitely South Africans and they don’t seem too shy,” said one source with contacts in Guinea’s private security sector, adding they had been hired to train a militia loyal to junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara at a former U.N. refugee camp in Guinea’s east.

A spokesman for Camara on Friday denied the junta had hired South Africans to train a militia but said Israeli nationals were training recruits for undefined tasks.

A copy of one email seen by Reuters and purporting to come from a Dubai-based company called Omega Strategic Services on Oct. 9 finalised arrangements for their arrival in Guinea on a flight from Johannesburg.

“When you arrive in Guinea ... our director of operations, will either meet you at the airport or arrange for you to be picked up and brought to the client site,” said the e-mail copy.

When contacted by Reuters, Omega declined to comment.

A second security source with knowledge of the arrangement said the South Africans had also been tasked with ensuring $45 million of light arms recently bought by the junta in Ukraine arrived safely.

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