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UN peacekeeper killed in DR Congo skirmishes

© UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

Text by Thomas HUBERT

Latest update : 2013-08-29

A Tanzanian officer has died and five Tanzanian and South African UN peacekeepers have been wounded near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where government and UN troops are engaged in fierce battles against the M23 militia.

A United Nations peacekeeper was killed and five others were wounded on Wednesday  during fighting with the M23 militia in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN said.

“A Tanzanian officer was killed, three other Tanzanian soldiers were wounded and two South Africans were also wounded,” Madnodje Mounoubai, the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, told FRANCE 24.

According to the UN, artillery fire from the M23 rebel movement caused the casualties.

“I am outraged by today’s killing of a United Nations Peacekeeper from Tanzania by the M23,” MONUSCO head Martin Kobler said in a statement.

The Congolese army supported by MONUSCO troops, artillery and helicopters has been battling the M23 north of the city of Goma for the past week.

At a briefing in Kinshasa on Wednesday morning, the UN said its helicopters had launched hundreds of rockets on M23 positions since last Friday, while South African peacekeepers fired mortar rounds at the rebels.

Government artillery and troops have focused their offensive on the so-called “Three masts” hill near the town of Kibati, a high strategic point used by mobile phone companies.

The M23 claimed in a statement that the ground troops sent against them on Wednesday “were completely destroyed”.

Tanzanian, South African and Malawian troops have been deployed as part of MONUSCO’s new Force Intervention Brigade, which has a UN mandate to engage in direct fighting against the numerous armed groups that have been destabilising the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 15 years.

Ituri fighting

In a separate development further north, government forces launched an offensive on August 22 against the FRPI, another militia in the Ituri district near the Ugandan border.

According to the UN humanitarian office, fighting in that area has forced 30,000 civilians to flee their homes. But local sources told the UN-backed station Radio Okapi that as many as 90,000 people were displaced.

MONUSCO reported that 30 members of the FRPI were killed in clashes with the army on Tuesday alone.

Ituri was the scene of bloody ethnic clashes in 2003, but has remained largely stable since then. Thomas Lubanga, a key player in the Ituri conflict, was the first person found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year.

Bosco Ntaganda, another rebel leader who was instrumental in starting the M23 rebellion in North Kivu last year, surrendered to the ICC in March 2013. He is due to be tried for his own earlier involvement in the Ituri conflict.

Date created : 2013-08-28

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