Some viewers have been spooked by a video, posted on July 23, showing a man wearing a South Sudanese military uniform shooting himself in the mouth then spitting out the bullets, seemingly unscathed, and proclaiming himself invincible and ready to defend South Sudanese President Salva Kiir at any cost. But the video is a set-up, designed to intimidate the president's opponents.
WARNING: READERS MAY FIND SOME OF THE FOLLOWING IMAGES SHOCKING
The footage, which lasts a bit less than two minutes, shows a man wearing a military uniform with badges representing South Sudan and indicating that he is a colonel in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
The video shows him picking up an AK-47, shooting himself in the mouth and then spitting out the bullet on the ground. He does the same thing with another AK-47 to show that he isn’t using a fake weapon. Then, he does the same thing with a pistol. Each time, he spits out a bullet. The last time, he spits out some blood, too.
He ends with the chilling words, “If you get too close to Kiir [the South Sudanese president] then I will crush you.”
Colonel insists they are not fake bullets
The colonel in the video is Angui Karbino Kuanyin. Kuanyin comes from a well-known military family – he is the son of General Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, one of the leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, who died back in 1999.
Kuanyin explained the idea behind the video in an interview with Australian media outlet SBS.
Lots of people around me didn’t believe I was capable of doing that. So I told them to come and they filmed me doing it. I didn’t want the video to end up online but other people posted it.
Why did I do it? Every day, people threaten President Kiir. I wanted to show people that we can protect the president whenever and wherever. I don’t think it is a crime, but if the president thinks it is then I am willing to go before a court.
Lots of people criticised me and said that I was using fake bullets. But they are real bullets! I’m extending the invitation to anyone who wants to come with his or her own weapon and try to prove that I am lying. I have lots of similar videos that I can show you.
In a bid to make the scene all the more shocking, the colonel fires a 9mm into his mouth and, at the end of the video, spits out blood.
"This video is just bluster”, says a ballistics specialist
Quite a few viewers of the video, however, didn’t buy Kuanyin’s claims, saying that the colonel couldn’t have fired real bullets without hurting himself. A few people noted that he doesn’t change cartridges during the video and suggested that he may have put them in his mouth before firing.
The France 24 Observers spoke to a French ballistics specialist.
It’s clearly just bluster. An eight-gram Kalashnikov bullet travels about 800 metres per second. It doesn’t matter what he claims to be able to do, a real bullet would have shattered his skull.
Within medical literature, there are a few cases of people who thought they had special powers and tried to stop bullets with their teeth. That’s the kind of thing this is.
I see two possibilities. Either it’s a blank or he used a cartridge but removed the projectile and the powder. I also think that the weapons that you see in this video fire cartridges with only a tiny bit of powder in the primer [the primer is the device responsible for initiating the combustion that will push the projectile out of the barrel].
"A tiny mistake could be fatal”
When you pull the trigger, you strike and ignite the primer, which creates an explosion. That is where the smoke comes from when someone fires a gun.
The sound of the gunshot in the video is much quieter than a normal shot, which would support the theory that only a tiny amount of powder was used. When he starts to bleed a little bit, it is probably because the flame made contact with the oral mucous membrane.
The weapon is also tilted and isn’t entirely in his mouth, which allows some of the gas from the compression to escape. That means that the colonel only feels the effects from a small amount of primer. This shows that he isn’t completely crazy because, by tilting the gun this way, he is averting the possibility of a much more serious injury.
So why does he spit out the projectile? It’s just like a show of sleight of hand. The projectile has been placed at the very end of the barrel. The projectile gets pushed by the gas onto his tongue and then he can just spit it out.
That said, what he is doing remains extremely dangerous. A tiny mistake could prove fatal.
At the moment of publication, we weren't able to establish if the South Sudanese army had opened an investigation into the video or not. We will update this article if and when we get this information.
Article by Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).