Saturday 20 October 2018

Tánaiste expresses 'shock' as 14 peacekeepers killed in rebel attack in DR Congo

Disappointment: Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Disappointment: Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys Newsdesk Newsdesk

The Tánaiste has expressed his sadness at the deaths of UN peacekeeping troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rebels attacked a United Nations peacekeeping base in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing at least 14 peacekeepers and wounding 53 others.

It is the worst single attack against a UN mission in recent history.

Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the peacekeepers were mainly from Tanzania and that at least five Congolese soldiers were also killed in the assault, blamed on one of the region's deadliest rebel groups.

"It's a very huge attack, certainly the worst in recent memory," Mr Haq said.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called the attack "a war crime" and urged Congolese authorities to swiftly investigate.

He expressed "outrage and utter heartbreak".

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he was "shocked" to hear the news.

"I am shocked and saddened to hear today of the deaths of at least 14 UN peacekeeping troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with many more injured," he said.

"The Blue Helmets epitomise the ideals of the UN, striving to bring peace and protect civilians across the globe. This attack is an affront to these ideals.

"We in Ireland know well the dangers faced by peacekeeping troops in the service of the UN.

"I express my deep condolences on behalf of Ireland to the families and loved ones of those killed."

The peacekeeping base where the attack occurred is located about 45 kilometres (27 miles) from the town of Beni, which has been repeatedly hit by rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group.

The base is home to the peacekeeping mission's rapid intervention force, which has a rare mandate to go on the offensive, according to Radio Okapi, which is backed by the UN mission.

The radio station, citing military sources, said fighting lasted four hours.

Nearly 300 peacekeepers have been killed since the UN mission arrived in 1999, according to UN peacekeeping data.

DR Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, has seen immeasurable cruelty and greed as a result of its vast mineral resources.

The nation suffered through one of the most brutal colonial reigns ever known before undergoing decades of corrupt dictatorship.

Back-to-back civil wars later drew in a number of neighbouring countries.

The conflicts have been numerous since the UN mission's arrival.

Many rebel groups have come and gone, at times invading the regional capital Goma.

One of the greatest threats in the region now comes from the ADF.

The rebel movement has been active since the 1990s but intensified its attacks inside DR Congo several years ago.

Human rights groups say at least 1,000 people have been killed in the last three years.

While the group's members are mainly Muslim, experts say there are no proven links between the ADF rebels and other extremist organisations in Africa.

The ADF rebels once aimed to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni's regime in neighbouring Uganda. By the 1990s, the fighters had established themselves in DR Congo.

The UN mission in 2006 helped carry out DR Congo's first free and fair elections in 46 years, but since then the winner of that vote, President Joseph Kabila, has become further entrenched in his post.

Anger has grown as presidential elections originally set for late last year have been repeatedly delayed.

Press Association

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