–By Arul Louis
United Nations, Dec 8: Fourteen peacekeepers from Tanzania have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in what United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Friday was “the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the Organization’s recent history”.
While Guterres gave the toll as 12, the peacekeeping mission in DRC said that 14 were killed in the attack in North Kivu province on Thursday night.
There there were no reports of death among the 2,914 Indian personnel deployed in the DRC peacekeeping operation, known by its French acronym, MONUSCO or Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The killings took place during “protracted fighting between suspected ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) elements” and MONUSCO and DRC military, the mission said, adding that 53 peacekeepers were injured.
“This is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the Organization’s recent history,” Guterres said. “It is another indication of the enormous sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace.”
“I condemn this attack unequivocally,” he added. “These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime. I call on the DRC authorities to investigate this incident and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Guterres said that military reinforcements have arrived at the site of the attack and that the force commander, Lt. Gen. Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi of South Africa, was there coordinating the mission’s response.”
MONUSCO is the largest UN mission now with more than 15,000 personnel – and the deadliest now. Two peacekeepers from Tanzania were killed in North Kivu Province in October, and another was killed in September.
The attacks were blamed on ADF, a rebel group that operate across Uganda and the mineral-rich eastern DRC.
Three Indian peacekeepers were killed in 2010 in an attack on their position in North Kivu, the same province as Thursday’s attack.
Thirty two Indian peacekeepers were injured in a grenade attack last year.
Indian peacekeepers fought off an attack in the same province in October, killing two attackers. A UN official said that it was likely the attackers belonged to the local Mai Mai militia.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)