Unrest In DRC: Eight Peacekeepers Perish As M23 Rebels Shot Down UN Chopper

Unrest In DRC: Eight Peacekeepers Perish As M23 Rebels Shot Down UN Chopper

By Spy Uganda Correspondent

The United Nations has confirmed that eight peacekeepers were killed when its helicopter crashed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the face of insurgent fighting.

The peacekeepers’ bodies have been transported to Goma, and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is underway, the United Nations stated in a statement.

They comprised six Pakistani military crew members and two military personnel from Russia and Serbia, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, said in a statement.

The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission when it came down in the area of Tshanzu in North Kivu province, where the Congolese army and a rebel group known as the M23 have clashed this week, MONUSCO said.

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Pakistan’s army confirmed the deaths of all eight persons and identified the pilot and crew. Pakistan has been deploying an aviation unit to the United Nations mission in Congo since 2011, according to the statement.

The Congolese army said the chopper was shot down by rebels, a claim rejected by the M23’s spokesman. MONUSCO made no mention of the crash’s cause and stated that an inquiry was underway.

After an uprising in 2012 and 2013, the M23 gang was forced out of Congo and into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. Its fighters have since returned to undertake attacks, including one in November in the same region of Congo.

On Sunday night, the heavy battle began as the M23 attacked two Congolese army posts.

According to a civil society organizer, the rebels had entered the city of Kabindi on Tuesday and were on their way to the area’s local administrative capital, the town of Rutshuru.

Uganda’s army has now joined the fighting, claiming to have killed 14 M23 fighters near the Congo border on Tuesday.

“If our adversaries succeed in dislodging our men, Rutshuru will collapse,” Jean Damascene Baziyaka warned reporters.

Regional efforts to demobilize the M23 have increased in recent years, but its commanders have complained about the slow pace of execution of a peace pact and accused the Congolese army of conducting war against them.

“This evening, they (M23) assaulted us; they shelled the Ugandan side, destroying several civilian homes. Our forces retaliated, killing 14 rebels and capturing seven others,” Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye, the Ugandan military’s spokesperson, stated.

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