South African troops (SADF) raid Maseru in an effort to kill suspected members of the African National Congress

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Date: 9 December, 1982

At one o'clock in the morning of December 9th, 1982, some100 South African commandos crept across the border of small African kingdom of Lesotho.  Their target-a cluster of houses on the outskirts of Maseru where members of the African National Congress  (ANC) were believed to be in hiding, was only a few hundred meters away.  Meeting no opposition from Lesotho's tiny 2 000-man paramilitary force, they blasted their way through numerous homes.  By morning 42 people were dead, 30 of them believed to be members of the ANC. The remaining victims were Lesotho residents, including five women and two children. Their mission accomplished, the members of SADF returned across the border to South Africa without incident.

In a dawn announcement in Pretoria, General Constand Viljoen, chief of the South African Defense Force, explained that the raid, named "Operation Blanket," had been a pre-emptive strike against ANC militants who taken refuge in Lesotho over the past few months. According to Viljoen, the ANC members were planning attacks in South Africa against political leaders in the black "homelands" of Transkei and Ciskei. South African defense officials displayed a rocket launcher, rifles and some grenades of Communist-bloc origin that they said had been captured in the raid.

The ANC denied the South African charges and denounced the invasion as a "cold-blooded massacre." Charging that the ANC members killed were political refugees, not terrorists, Lesotho's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles D. Molapo, labeled the attack, "murder."

The raid met with a chorus of international outrage, even from Pretoria's few remaining defenders. From Washington DC, Reagan Administration officials deplored the attack and called for a settlement in southern Africa "through peaceful negotiation." The South African government however, was not yet ready for such approach, as the "Maseru Massacre" as it came to be called, was one of but many brazen cross-border raids conducted by the South African Defense Force during the 1980s.