Sierra Leone: September 25, 2000


British Pathfinders (parachute scouts) sent to Sierra Leone had a serious problem in a 17 May battle when attacking RUF rebel troops reached within 40 yards of their trenches. The troops (who had, on orders, not fired until the rebels were properly identified) found their SA80 rifles were unable to function due to faulty safety switches. The British troops were defended by Nigerian peacekeepers and by their own machineguns, which were a different design from the notoriously unreliable and unpopular SA80. The Pathfinders were able to use the built-in telescopic sights of their rifles (during periods when the battlefield was illuminated by flares) to spot targets for their machinegun teams.--Stephen V Cole


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