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3 Indian UN peacekeepers killed in Congo

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KINSHASA – Suspected rebels hacked to death three Indian UN peacekeepers in their camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Indian and Congolese armies said, in an attack condemned by the UN and the Congolese government.

A further seven Indian troops were wounded in the attack on Wednesday in Kirumba, which the Indian military and local officials blamed on the Mai-Mai, a Congolese tribal militia.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the killings and urged Kinshasa to launch an immediate inquiry to “ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly identified and brought to justice.”

In its own statement, the 15-member Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms” the attack.

The head of the UN mission in DR Congo, Roger Meece, said it was “a very sad loss,” but added that his forces would continue their efforts to beat the threat of armed groups.

“At about 1:50 am (2350 GMT Tuesday), under the cover of darkness, the Unit?s Company Operating Base at Kirumba was approached by five innocent looking civilians,” the Indian army said in a statement.

“They asked the post for assistance. While they were engaging the guard on duty with conversation, a group of approximately 50-60 rebels — probably Mai-Mai rebel group — attacked the periphery of the post, from the surrounding jungle,” the statement said.

“This lasted for approximately five minutes. The rebels merged into the forest, taking advantage of darkness.

“In the ensuing incident, Indian troops suffered three fatal casualties and seven injured.”

General Vainqueur Mayala, commander of the 8th military region of the DR Congo army, said the motive for the attack was unclear.

“They did not use firearms, but knives and machetes, and they killed three Indians and critically injured another three,” the general told AFP by telephone from Kinshasa.

The victims all served with the United Nations’ Organisation for Stabilisation in Democratic Republic of Congo, abbreviated to MONUSCO.

“I can only reiterate the shock I felt, the sadness for the loss of our soldiers,” Meece said at his weekly press conference in Kinshasa.

“It’s a very sad loss but I can assure you that we will pursue our efforts… against the threats posed by the various armed groups, including the group which launched the attack this morning.”

In the wake of the UN calls for justice the Congolese government promised late Wednesday to submit the killers to “the law in all its rigour” and “firmly” condemned the attack.

A statement issued by communications minister and government spokesman Lambert Mende said: “Inquiries are already well under way to identify the guilty parties who will have to experience the law in all its rigour.”

Kirumba is around 140 kilometres (85 miles) north of Goma, capital of the volatile North-Kivu province.

An Indian peacekeeper was shot and killed in North-Kivu in May this year, and another was killed in a gun battle in the province in 2005.

The head city official of Kirumba, Egide Karafifi, told AFP the attackers were wearing civilian clothes, had raphia palm coverings on their heads and were singing Mai-Mai songs.

The mission, earlier known by its French acronym MONUC, has been present in DR Congo since late 1999 and its new mandate to consolidate peace runs until June 30 next year.

The Mai-Mai are just one of a number of armed groups fighting each other and the army in the east of the country. They were integrated in the Congolese army but control their own territory in Sud-Kivu province and are intent on overturning the military command in the area.

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