One peacekeeper killed in DRC after UN chopper comes under fire

Sunday’s incident comes a day after leaders of the East African Community held a summit on the DRC crisis, in Burundi.

UN peacekeepers in Congo
Bangladeshi peacekeepers of the UN mission, are seen next to a helicopter in Ituri region in this picture released on February 25, 2005 by UN mission in the country [Reuters/UN]

A United Nations peacekeeper has been killed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) when a helicopter operated by the peacekeeping force came under fire midair on Sunday, the UN mission called MONUSCO said.

The helicopter was able to land in the provincial capital, Goma. It was attacked after taking off from the city of Beni in the early afternoon.

Another peacekeeper was severely wounded in the attack, MONUSCO said in a statement, which did not say who might be responsible. The statement did not say what weapon was fired at the helicopter or what caused the casualties.

Authorities in Kinshasa blamed the M23 rebel group, which is in frequent combat with the Congolese army in the region, for attacking the aircraft. M23 spokesperson Willy Ngoma denied it and told Reuters news agency it was not over M23 territory.

A UN peacekeeping mission of about 18,200 personnel has been deployed in the eastern DRC since taking over from a previous UN operation in 2010. Its mandate includes supporting the DRC government’s effort to stabilise a region racked by rebel violence.

Eight peacekeepers were killed last year when their helicopter crashed in North Kivu province, where the Congolese army was fighting the M23 rebel group.

Sunday’s incident comes just a day after leaders of the East African Community held a summit in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura and reiterated a “call to all parties to de-escalate tensions”.

Source: News Agencies