Pakistani peacekeepers killed in helicopter crash

Advertisement

Intense fighting between the M23 and the DRC forces was reported starting Sunday…reports Arul Louis

Six Pakistani peacekeepers have been killed along with two others when their helicopter went down in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the UN.

Confirming their deaths, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that a search and rescue mission found their bodies.

The six crew members of the helicopter were from Pakistan and the two others on the flight were military personnel from Russia and Serbia, he said.

The helicopter that was on a reconnaissance mission in the area of Tshanzu, south-east of Rutshuru in North Kivu went down on Tuesday, he said.

“There have been clashes there between the M23 armed group and Congolese forces in recent days,” he said.

The M23 is a rebel organisation that has regrouped after being routed nearly a decade ago by DRC troops and UN peacekeepers and it has launched attacks on the DRC military.

Intense fighting between the M23 and the DRC forces was reported starting Sunday.

Dujarric said that an investigation into the crash was underway.

AfricaNews, however, reported that according to the DRC armed forces, the helicopter was shot down.

It quoted a press release from the armed forces as saying, “The helicopter was one of the two MONUSCO reconnaissance helicopters with on board eight Blue helmets (peacekeepers) crew members and United Nations observers.”

MONUSCO is the French acronym for the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC.

South Asian peacekeepers dominate the 14,000-strong military segment of the operation with 1,974 from Pakistan, 1,888 from India, 1,634 from Bangladesh and 936 from Nepal.

The peacekeeping operations in the DRC — the current MONUSCO and its previous version known as MONUC — are among the deadliest with at least 400 killed.

Thirty Indian peacekeepers have died in the operations, as have 33 from Pakistan, 31 from Bangladesh and seven from Nepal.

UN CHIEF SADDENED

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was saddened by the deaths of eight peacekeepers in a helicopter crash in the Congo.

The secretary general was deeply saddened to confirm the deaths of eight peacekeepers onboard a Puma helicopter that crashed in North Kivu province of the Congo, Stephane Dujarric, Guterres’ spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission in Tshanzu, where there have been clashes between the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group and the Congo military in recent days, it said, adding that an investigation is underway.

Guterres expressed his sincere condolences to the bereaved families and the governments of Pakistan, Russia and Serbia, the peacekeepers’ home countries.

He is deeply concerned by the resurgence of M23 activities in the Rwanda-Congo-Uganda border area and the ongoing impact of violence involving armed groups on civilians, said the statement.

The secretary-general reiterated the UN’s commitment to supporting the Congolese government and people in their effort to bring peace and stability to the eastern provinces of the country, it said.

ALSO READ-‘Huge international conspiracy’: Imran on no-trust motion