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14 UN peacekeepers killed in Democratic Republic of Congo, 3 missing

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

United Nations, Dec 9 (UITV/IANS) - Fourteen peacekeepers from Tanzania have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and three are missing in what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday was "the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the Organisation's recent history".

The director of the UN Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC), Ian Sinclair, told reporters that the killings occurred during a series of attacks on the UN the peacekeepers in DRC's North Kivu province on Thursday night. At least 53 peacekeepers were injured.

Sinclair said that the numbers of victims could change and that 20 injured peacekeepers had been evacuated to higher-level trauma centre in Goma, the province's capital.

There there were no reports of death among the 2,914 Indian personnel deployed in the DRC peacekeeping operation, known by its French acronym, MONUSCO for Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This was the third fatal attack on UN peacekeepers in the area in recent months, Sinclair said.

Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the attacks were likely carried out by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group that operate across Uganda and the mineral-rich eastern DRC.

Guterres called the killings a war crime and said: "This is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the Organisation's recent history. It is another indication of the enormous sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace."

"I condemn this attack unequivocally," he added.

General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak said on Twitter that he was "devastated" by the attack.

Guterres said that military reinforcements have arrived at the site of the attack and that the force commander, Lt. Gen. Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi of South Africa, was there coordinating the mission's response."

MONUSCO is the largest peacekeeping mission with more than 15,000 personnel - and the deadliest now. Two peacekeepers from Tanzania were killed in North Kivu Province in October, and another in September.

Three Indian peacekeepers were killed in 2010 in an attack on their position in North Kivu, the same province as Thursday's attack.

Thirty two Indian MONUSCO peacekeepers were injured in a grenade attack last year.

Indian peacekeepers fought off an attack in the same province in October, killing two attackers. A UN official said that it was likely the attackers belonged to a local militia, Mai Mai.

Lacroix said that ADF elements had stepped up their activities in North Kivu in response to MONUSCO's "increased robust" action against rebel forces in recent months.

He said that the Force Intervention Brigade, which includes troops from several countries including Nepal, operates in the region. The brigade has a broader mandate than other elements in the UN peacekeeping missions and is specifically authorised by the Security Council to carry out offensive operations against rebel groups to disarm them.

Lacroix characterised the ADF as "extremist in nature," but also "focused on exploitation of natural resources in the area.