Church Street bombing

Church Street Bombing

Church Street bombing

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The Church Street bombing was a car bomb attack on 20 May 1983 by Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress, in the South African capital Pretoria. The bombing killed 19 and wounded more than 200, and was one of the largest attacks engaged in by the ANC during its armed struggle against apartheid.

The attack consisted of a car bomb set off outside the Nedbank Square building on Church Street at 4:30pm on a Friday. The target was South African Air Force (SAAF) headquarters, but as the bomb was set to go off at the height of rush hour, those killed and wounded included civilians. The bomb went off ten minutes earlier than planned, killing two ANC operatives in the vehicle, Freddie Shangwe and Ezekial Maseko. At least 20 ambulances took the dead and wounded to hospital.

Truth Commission hearing

In submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1997 and 1998, the ANC revealed that the attack was orchestrated by a special operations unit of the ANC's Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), commanded by Aboobaker Ismail. Such units had been authorised by Oliver Tambo, the ANC President, in 1979. At the time of the attack, they reported to Joe Slovo as chief of staff, and the Church Street attack was authorised by Tambo.

The ANC's submission said that the bombing was in response to a South African cross-border raid into Lesotho in December 1982 which killed 42 ANC...
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