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5 Indian peacekeepers killed in S Sudan

09 April 2013, 14:31

New Delhi - Five Indian peacekeepers were killed on Tuesday in an ambush in South Sudan, the Indian foreign ministry said, a day after the head of the UN mission there warned about spiralling violence.

"Five peacekeepers from India with UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) killed in ambush in Jonglei," foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin wrote on Twitter, adding that four had been wounded.

He confirmed the deaths at the hands of unknown "rebels" to AFP and said the soldiers had been killed while "escorting a UN convoy".

Jonglei has been the scene of widespread ethnic conflict since South Sudan became independent in July 2011. Much of the trouble has been in Pibor county, where the UN peacekeeping force is based.

An Indian soldier was shot and wounded there in March amid high tensions about an imminent government crackdown, and a UN helicopter was downed in December.

Amid renewed clashes between ethnic groups and government forces, the UN troops have recently stepping up their patrols to deter violence and fulfil their mission of protecting civilians.

UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson warned on Monday about the "destabilisation" of the region.

"I urge the Murle, Lou Nuer and Dinka communities, their leaders, and the governments of Jonglei and South Sudan to resume and sincerely engage in peace initiatives," Johnson said, according to a UN statement.

In March, she said that the government was expected to soon launch an offensive against fighters loyal to local rebel leader David Yau Yau in the region.

India is a major contributor to the UN peacekeeping forces around the world and has suffered losses in the past.

In 2010, rebels hacked to death three Indians in their camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Akbaruddin said that the Indian foreign ministry was arranging for the bodies of its peacekeepers in South Sudan to be returned home.



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