Death of Bob Denard


Aug 4, 2007
Saturday 13 October, 2007

Bob Denard, the French soldier whose near mythical involvement in African wars since the 1960s made him one of the world's most famous mercenaries, has died.

He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease and was 78 years old.

"I confirm that he has died," Georgette Garnier, Denard's sister, told Reuters. She declined to say when or where he died but he had recently been living in the village where he was born in south-western France.

Denard, who claimed he had covert support from France, keen to maintain its influence in its former African colonies, called himself the "pirate of the Republic" for a career which began in Congo and ended in the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean.

Senior Comoros military commander Abdallah Gamil said Denard had been admitted to a hospital in Paris late on Saturday. "About 40 minutes later, one of Bob's close friends told me he had died," he said.

Denard was sentenced by a Paris court in July for his part in a 1995 coup in Comoros.

He and others were charged with overthrowing Comoros President Mohammed Djohar in September 1995, when they put opposition leaders Mohammed Taki and Said-Ali Kemal in power.

The court sentenced Denard to four years in jail but ordered three of them suspended. A separate sentencing judge was supposed to decide whether the ailing Denard would serve time behind bars.

The mercenaries said they had acted with the knowledge and implicit support of the French government in the Comoros, a former French colony.


Many Comorians were bitter Denard did not face justice on the Indian Ocean archipelago where his involvement in four coups and coup attempts since the islands became independent from France in 1975 made him a widely hated figure.

"This man sullied our history," said Abdou Soule Elbak, former president of Grande Comore.

"I regret he was not made to answer to all the crimes he committed in our country, the murders and the torture which he was guilty of," said Moustoifa Said Cheikh, leader of the Democratic Front party.

Denard was one of several European mercenaries to play a major role in a series of wars during the 1960s and 1970s that accompanied the decolonisation of Africa.

His ruthless efficiency when faced with poorly equipped and poorly trained African troops made him a legendary figure as he led a band of former European soldiers who became known as "les affreux" (the frightful ones).

He fought in the commando team which in 1964 rescued white civilians encircled by rebels in Stanleyville in what was then the Belgian Congo, a raid which formed the basis of the film "The Wild Geese".

Later he drifted on to other wars in North Yemen, Biafra and Angola.

Denard served in France's marines and the French colonial police in Morocco before embarking on a career as a mercenary.

He received a suspended five-year sentence in France for his part in an abortive mercenary invasion of then Marxist-ruled Benin in 1977, but was acquitted when tried on charges of assassinating Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah in 1989.


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Very interesting man, in a very interesting part of history.
They still reverberate around Africa to this very day.

RIP Col Denard
A Man and His Dog

Monday, Aug. 21, 1978

A soldier of fortune takes over the land of ilang-ilang

Until last spring, the Comoro Islands were known, if at all, chiefly as a source of ilang-ilang, an exotic flower whose extract is widely used in French perfumes. Now the Comoros are called the Mercenary Isles. Last spring the four tiny specks of volcanic ash off the coast of Mozambique were invaded by a motley troop of white soldiers of fortune, who took over the hapless islands lock, stock, and ilang-ilang.

The Comoros have proved an ideal laboratory for bizarre experiments in government. Since 1975 they had been ruled by quixotic Ali Soilih, 41, a bald-headed leftist who seized power shortly after the islands became independent from France. Soilih began his extraordinary career by promising socialist equality to his 300,000 poverty-stricken, racially mixed countrymen. But after deteriorating relations with France resulted in a cutoff of aid and his treasury began to run dry, Soilih tried something different. His new start amounted to government by hallucination.

Instead of paying bureaucrats, Soilih sacked them and loaded the civil service with illiterate teenagers. Then he outraged the large Muslim population by ordering women to stop wearing veils and by banning traditional wedding feasts. Last January he directed his loyal youth brigade to kill every dog in the islands. They scoured villages, tied the captive canines to the back of a Land-Rover and dragged them to death through the streets. Many Comorans speculated that Soilih had flipped out and gone psychodogmatic after a fortuneteller warned that he would be overthrown by a man with a mutt. On the other hand, the stocky dictator may have dreamed up the idea while smoking hashish, an activity that seemed to take up much of his time.

Soilih, in fact, was apparently still under the influence of hash one night last May when 30 white mercenaries tiptoed onto a beach near the capital city of Moroni. They were led by French-born Colonel Robert Denard, 50, a notorious soldier of fortune who has left his bloody footprints in countless African battles in the past 23 years. As foretold, Denard was accompanied by a German shepherd dog. Within a few hours, Denard and his gang had shot up Soilih's bodyguard, put the dictator under arrest and accepted the surrender of the Comoran army, a ragtag force of 200 men who had not fired a shot. The coup touched off a week of celebration that grew still more frenzied with the announcement that Soilih had died while "trying to escape."

Denard had been hired by two wealthy Comorans, Ahmed Abdallah, a former head of state, and Businessman Mohammed Ahmed*; they may have gotten an okay for the invasion from French intelligence. They set themselves up as "co-presidents" and obligingly declared that Denard and his men were merely visiting "technicians." But the technicians had ideas of their own. Efficient mercenary "advisers" were assigned to the army, police, post office and telephone company and in every instance took firm, though unofficial, command.

"This is much preferable to being in a national military organization and being closed in," said Denard last week, happily surveying his new domain. "A man," he mused philosophically, "reaches a point in his life when it is time to settle down. This place has good food and pretty women. What more can you ask for?" Denard has taken a Comoran wife, converted to Islam and adopted the name Moustapha Mouhadjou. When he drives around in his brown and white Ford command car, Denard is hailed by cheering crowds as "No. 1 President." He returns the cheers with an exaggerated, army-style salute.

Such adulation is a far cry from the hostility the "dogs of war" usually receive in black Africa. White mercenaries are among the most hated men on the continent. Many of the most famous have gone into retirement. "African armies are much better now and can no longer be beaten by a few white soldiers," says Denard with a trace of nostalgia. "There was a time when our services were really needed, but that time is passing now. I think I am the only person left who could have mounted an operation like this."

But even in the Comoros, time may be running out for the white adventurers. Denard's prominence has made the Comorans outcasts in black Africa. When Comoran diplomats showed up at the recent summit meeting of the Organization for African Unity, they were branded the "Denard delegation" and unceremoniously thrown out. Western nations that would like to help the Comoros are reluctant to extend aid to a nation dominated by a pack of hired guns. Says a Comoran official: "Our biggest problem now is how to get the mercenaries out and re-establish relations with the rest of Africa."

That will take some doing, as Denard has shown no signs of quitting his island stronghold. Each night, fire trucks and service vehicles are drawn up on the airstrip at Moroni airport to keep unwelcome visitors—including a commando force that Uganda's Idi Amin has threatened to launch—from dropping in. "If the people ask us to leave," says Denard, "we'll be gone the next morning. If they don't ask us to leave, it will take 100,000 Cubans to throw us out." It appears that the old mercenary has found a home—until the next man with a dog comes along.

*According to rumor, Ahmed took out a mortgage on his Paris apartment to finance the operation.
Wow. He seemed like one of those guys that would live forever. Definately a "larger-than-life" guy. As a kid growing up, I remember reading about his exploits in the Congo and elsewhere.

RIP sir.
Keyword about Denard is "mythical". I'm no fan. That's not to take away from things he accomplished when he was in, but once he was booted out of the military, well...
Keyword about Denard is "mythical". I'm no fan. That's not to take away from things he accomplished when he was in, but once he was booted out of the military, well...

Everything he acheived of note was AFTER he was out of the military.
He was an Indochina and Algeria vet.
My two cents: general Aussaresses was several times the man Denard was and claimed to be through proxies, mostly.
So: RIP. That's it for me.

"June 29, 2006

I never met Col. Bob Denard, the famed white mercenary, but our wakes often crossed during the 1980’s when I was covering Southern Africa’s guerilla wars. Many were the nights I sat around campfires in the bush listening to tales of the swashbuckling adventurer Africans called `the White Devil’. While in Rhodesia to hunt guerillas with its fearsome Selous Scouts, I missed Denard by only a few days.

Last week, Denard and 26 other mercenaries were given a five-year suspended sentence by a Paris court for invading the Comoro Islands, a small, mixed-race archipelago off Africa’s southern coast. That was Col. Bob’s fourth takeover of the Comoros, which he ruled for eleven years as Africa’s only white chieftain. There, he converted to Islam and married seven wives.

I first heard about Denard during the wild Congo days in the 1960’s when he, and his equally colorful comrade-in-arms, `Mad Mike’ Hoare, and a handful of white mercenaries routed the entire Congolese Army.

Denard and `Mad Mike’ saved hundreds of whites from being tortured, burned alive or eaten by gangs of drug-crazed savages known as `Simbas.’ In Katanga, they whipped a UN army sent to overthrow its ruler, Moise Tschombe, a stooge of Belgian mining interests.

Denard fough in Biafra, and against Che Guevara in Congo. He battled communists in Angola with my old friend Gen. Jonas Savimbi, who was recently assassinated when he become an obstacle to US oil policy. He warred in Yemen, Rhodesia, and Benin. Author Frederick Forsythe modeled his hero in the novel `Dogs of War’ on Denard.

In 1978, a teenage lunatic named Ali Soilih seized power in the Comoros, subjecting its 500,000 inhabitants to a reign of terror. Soilih’s teenage thugs ran the entire government. A 15-year old headed the police. Gangs of drunken armed teenagers raped and looted.

Comoran businessmen paid Denard $6 million to get rid of Soilih. Col. Bob hired old pals from Congo, bought a rust-bucket freighter, and sailed for the Comoros. After circumnavigating Africa, the mercenaries landed at night, and surrounded Soilih’s palace.

The president was sporting in is bedroom with two naked, 12-year old girls, popping bennies, smoking hashish, and watch a porn film when Col. Bob kicked down the bedroom door. A short burst from Denard’s submachine gun finished off the teenage tyrant. The next morning, Denard draped Soilih’s riddled body over the fender of his jeep and drove through the capitol.

After granting nominal independence to its African colonies in the early 1960’s, France retained control of them by installing puppet regimes. Troublemakers were dealt with by the feared Foreign Legion and even more feared Col. Bob and his white mercenaries.

Denard and his boys often secretly worked for the notorious `Action Service’ of SDECE, France’s intelligence agency, that carried out assassinations, coups and kidnappings. Denard also worked for President DeGaulle’s legendary spymaster and Africa tsar, Jacques Foccart.

Just revealed: President Jacques Chirac approved Denard’s last invasion of the Comoros in 1995, in which he and 30 men ousted President Said Djohar. Black African states protested violently, but claimed they `lacked the military resources’ to oust Denard and his men!

But Col. Bob was eventually forced out of the Comoros by French troops after black African nations threatened to stop buying French arms.

Age finally did what a hundred battles and all his enemies could not. Denard, now 79, has been laid low by advancing Alzheimer’s disease. The old lion has been crippled by tiny proteins in his brain.

`Mad Mike’ slipped into obscurity after he and a bunch of mercenaries, calling themselves `the Ancient Order of Foam-Blowers’ tried to take over the Seychelles. He’d be in his 80’s by now.

Adieu Col. Bob and `Mad Mike,’ two of our times’ most colorful characters. I salute you.

While they lived, no African tyrant could sleep soundly, knowing Col. Bob or `Mad Mike’ might be out there somewhere in the sultry night."