Kinshasa, DR Congo : At least 14 UN peacekeepers and 5 Congolese soldiers were killed and over 53 wounded in an attack on Thursday evening in North Kivu province, Eastern Congo, United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday. The 14 UN Peacekeepers killed are from Tanzania.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said he was “outraged” by the attack. He said on Twitter that medical evacuations were ongoing from the scene. He did not identify the attackers.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is the largest and most expensive in the world and is aimed at calming a number of armed groups in the vast, mineral-rich Central African nation.
Radio Okapi, which is linked to the peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC), reported that peacekeepers on Thursday repelled an attack – on an operating Base at Semuliki in Beni territory, North Kivu – by fighters with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group on a U.N. base in the Beni area. The base is home to the peacekeeping mission’s rapid intervention force, which has a rare mandate to go on the offensive.
The attack resulted in a protracted fighting between the suspected armed group elements and MONUSCO and Armed Forces of the DRC, known by the French acronym, FARDC.
The radio station, citing military sources, said fighting lasted four hours.
“These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, adding: “I condemn this attack unequivocally.”
Further, calling on the DRC authorities to investigate the incident and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice, the UN chief stressed: “There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else.”
In his remarks, he also said that the attack is another indication of the challenges faced by UN peacekeepers around the world and acknowledged the sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace.
“These brave women and men are putting their lives on the line every day across the world to serve peace and to protect civilians,” he noted, offering condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and a speedy recovery to those injured.
He also informed that military reinforcements, including the Force Commander from MONUSCO, have arrived on the scene and medical evacuation of casualties is ongoing.
The volatile North Kivu region, located in eastern DRC, has witnessed a number of attacks on UN peacekeeping forces. In October, two UN ‘blue helmets’ were killed and another 18 were injured their base was attacked by the ADF armed group.