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9 Dec 2017

Worst attack on UN in recent history kills 15 peacekeepers in DR Congo

The United Nations suffered its worst attack on a peacekeeping mission in nearly a quarter of a century on Friday when suspected Ugandan rebels attacked a base in the restive Democratic Republic of Congo, killing at least 15 peacekeepers.
The UN Security Council said the peacekeepers, who were all from neighbouring Tanzania, were killed in the North Kivu province late Thursday, alongside five Congolese soldiers, with 53 personnel wounded.

UN chief Antonio Guterres led an outpouring of outrage over the deadly ambush, calling it a “heinous” act.

“I condemn this attack unequivocally. These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime,” he said in a statement.

Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the State Department, said Washington was “appalled by the horrific act”.

The attack is the worst loss of life to a UN peacekeeping force since 1993 when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in Somalia during clashes with a local warlord.

DR Congo’s huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, has increased significantly this year.

North Kivu province, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, has seen a particular uptick in killings and kidnappings between rival ethnic groups.

The UN in October declared a level 3 emergency in DR Congo — a status afforded to conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

MONUSCO, the UN’s peacekeeping force in DR Congo, said its operating base at Semuliki, North Kivu, was attacked by “suspected ADF elements”. ADF are a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, one of several armed groups active in the North Kivu region.

“Attacks against those who are working in the service of peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are cowardly,” MONUSCO head Maman Sidikou said in a statement, vowing to bring the attackers to justice.

Guterres said it was the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the organisation’s recent history.

“I call on the DRC authorities to investigate this incident and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said. “There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else.”

Some those wounded in the attack are in critical condition with the medical evacuation of casualties continuing, he added, while military reinforcements have arrived on the scene.

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