19 September 2011

Looking Back At Biafra, Part III

Another short snippet on Biafra, highlighting Rolf Steiner. (Yes, we skipped August in our re-runs of these articles...)

To reach Aba, federal forces had to cross the swift currents of the Imo River, which the Biafrans had established as the major defense line protecting Aba by the simple expedient of blowing up the main bridges. They had left just one bridge intact—at Awaza—and it was heavily mined. When federal marine commandos stepped onto the bridge, it, too, exploded and vanished. The blast, however, failed to stop federal soldiers from running across the catwalk on top of a natural-gas pipeline that spanned the river parallel to the bridge. As 50 virtually unarmed Biafran guards watched helplessly, a steady line of Nigerians made their way across the catwalk and pierced the Ibo heartland.

The backbone of Ojukwu's military resistance is a small group of white mercenaries commanded by Colonel Rolf Steiner, a 38-year-old former Foreign Legion sergeant who fought in Indo-China and Algeria. His ability to make the most of Biafra's minimal military resources has moved him steadily upward in rank and power since he signed on last December. When news of the federal onslaught reached Ojukwu, he hurried to Steiner's headquarters in an abandoned nunnery in Owerri.

Outside, monsoon rain was falling on a blue-and-white plaster Madonna whose forehead had been punctured by a bullet. Steiner was standing in the refectory, the strain of the war lining his face. "You must save Aba at any cost," pleaded Ojukwu. "You must hold the place—is that clear?" Steiner hesitated. "Mon colonel, I was only a sergeant in the Legion," he said. "I cannot command a division." Replied Ojukwu: "Oh, but you will. And you will hold."

By: Brant

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