8 dead after a United Nations helicopter was shot down by rebels in Congo

The Congolese army said rebels in the east of the country shot down a United Nations helicopter carrying eight peacekeepers and UN observers on Tuesday, and the UN said there were no survivors.

According to a statement from the Congolese army, the helicopter, along with another helicopter, was conducting reconnaissance flights for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo when it was attacked. The UN peacekeepers in the helicopter assessed the movements of communities attacked by a rebel group to coordinate humanitarian aid.

The M23 rebel group attacked several villages including Tchanzu, Runyonyi, Ndiza and Tchengerero on Monday, the statement said.

Resurgent attacks by M23 rebels displace hundreds in eastern Congo
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrols areas affected by recent attacks by M23 rebels near Rangira in North Kivu in eastern DRC March 29, 2022 .

DJAFFAR SABITI / REUTERS


UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric later said that a search and rescue operation found the wreck and there were no survivors. The bodies of the eight men were taken to Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo, he said.

“We offer our condolences to the governments and families of the six crew members from Pakistan and the two military personnel from Russia and Serbia,” Dujarric said. “An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash is ongoing.”

Dujarric had previously confirmed the helicopter was there to monitor the situation where fighting had erupted but asked for patience as to the cause of his crash.

The Pakistani military issued a statement with the names of the six officers and soldiers in the helicopter, saying they had “accepted martyrdom.”

“Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, has always played a central role in contributing to the realization of the ideals of global peace and security through UN peacekeeping missions,” the statement said.

Eastern Congo is prone to insecurity as multiple armed groups vie for control of its mineral-rich land. Last year, Six park rangers were killed in a gorilla sanctuary of militiamen fighting for control of natural resources and land in eastern Congo.

In 2012, the M23 rebels controlled large areas in eastern Congo, including the provincial capital Goma. The rebels were finally pushed into Uganda and Rwanda from eastern Congo in 2013 by Congolese and UN forces.

Despite ongoing efforts to disarm the group, M23 rebels have recently increased their attacks in the area.

The UN special envoy for Congo, Bintou Keita, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the security situation in Congo has deteriorated since December “despite military operations by the Congolese security and defense forces under a state of siege”.

Civilian deaths and displacement have increased, she said, largely due to bloody reprisals by Allied Democratic Forces rebels against civilians living in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

“In the past three months we have seen an alarming increase in activity by the M23 rebel movement in North Kivu,” she said, including Monday’s attacks on civilians in communities near Rutshuru. New fighting also breaks out in the border triangle near the border town of Bunagana.

Before the helicopter crash, four humanitarian workers were killed, one wounded and six kidnapped in the past three months, Keita said.

She said efforts by both the United Nations and Congolese forces have been insufficient given the deteriorating security situation.

“This is a testament to the inherent limitations of having security operations solely to resolve conflicts,” she said.

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