SAS handbook footage

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The civil war in Zaire is raging. The Rwandan border guards in Gisenji have refused permission for vehicles to be taken across the border into the Zairean town of Goma.

At 9am on November 2 1996, a group of around 20 international journalists cross the border and head into Goma. Civilians at the deserted border post on the Zaire side tell them that the Army left in panic hours earlier.

Despite the noise of gunfire in the distance, civilians do not seem alarmed as they head for the border.

Towards the middle of the group are two Swedish journalists, cameraman Bengt Stenvall and correspondent Stefan Borg. They have now gone about 500 metres into Goma.

At a small side street, they see three civilians walking towards them; they wave, and Stefan, Bengt and two American journalists stop to talk to them. The rest of the journalists continue further into Goma. The sound of gunfire is in the distance and poses no immediate threat.

Bengt has the camera rolling; Stefan begins the interview. Suddenly a hand grenade explodes behind the interviewee. Instinctively, they all run for cover. Bengt’s camera is still rolling as he rounds the corner to the sound of gunfire. He feels a hit in his leg and falls to the ground.

The firing intensifies. Stefan and Bengt communicate with one another. Bengt is wounded; he’s bleeding. After a brief camera blackout, Bengt realigns the camera from the ground and sets the automatic focus. The viewfinder catches his leg and Stefan as he prepares to run to Bengt’s aid.

As the camera keeps rolling, Stefan runs across, stumbling slightly as a bullet whistles by.

Stefan kneels by his colleague and begins to cut away the blood soaked trousers. They all now have some degree of cover by a wall as the firing continues from two sides.

Having cut the trousers away, Stefan has exposed an exit wound the size of half a tennis ball. Bengt has lost a lot of blood and is still bleeding heavily. Stefan applies a tourniquet above the knee and covers the exit wound.

A rebel is now advancing along the wall from the East, firing as he comes. One of the Americans starts yelling, “Journalists! Journalists!” – but if anything, the firing intensifies. Stefan decides they have to move.

There has been no firing from the south for a couple of minutes so they begin to run back towards the border. Adrenaline assists Bengt for the first 50 metres – then he is carried.

It has been just five intense minutes since the grenade went off.

Within 35 minutes of injury, Bengt is receiving some treatment in the local Hospital in Gisenji. Forty-eight hours after the incident, Bengt is in hospital in Sweden and Stefan is getting some real sleep.

A couple of things made this incident unique.

First, it was recorded on film, capturing for all time the intensity of those five minutes.

Second, Stefan and Bengt had attended a course with AKE in June that year, which prepared them to be able to deal with the worst-case situation.

“Without AKE’s training,” said Stefan Borg, “I’m convinced that Bengt wouldn’t be alive today.”

Stefan remained in control of the situation, despite the dangers, and it is this ability which is fundamental in all aspects of security. Being in control of your environment substantially reduces the risk to you.

Although at the extreme end of the scale, the incident with Stefan and Bengt is directly related to personal security in all situations, and the level of control you have over your circumstances will define the risk towards you and your family – and your chances of survival in the event of serious incident.

SAS+ Security Handbook by Andrew KainThe more control you have over events and situations involving you, the less risk there will be towards you. However, we have to be realistic. Life is full of risk and it would be boring if it were not so. What we are trying to do is increase our awareness, understand risk and, where possible, take control of our lives.

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