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What one of the deadliest ever attacks on UN peacekeepers means for Congo

At least 14 UN peacekeepers were killed and more than 50 wounded when armed men attacked their base in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN mission, known as MONUSCO, said on Friday.

The attack on the troops in Semuliki, in North Kivu’s Beni region, began at dusk on Thursday and lasted several hours.

At least 12 of the peacekeepers killed were Tanzanian soldiers. Five Congolese soldiers were also killed, and the Congolese army put the number of rebel deaths at 72. UN officials said the toll could still rise as some peacekeepers were still missing and others gravely injured.

UN officials said it was likely that the attack was perpetrated by members of the shadowy Allied Democratic Forces, which has been active in the area for years. The ADF, which originated in Uganda, has not claimed responsibility.

Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the UN would “get to the bottom of this”.

The Tanzanian troops were part of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade – the specialised contingent authorised in 2013 by the Security Council to target and disarm rebel groups in the country.

Lacroix said the incident was a response “to our increasingly robust posture in that region”. The Tanzanian unit is believed to be among the UN’s most effective troops in the region.

Ian Sinclair, director of the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre, said the attack was the third aimed at Tanzanian soldiers in the same area over the past several months.

Who did it?

Sinclair said the base is situated on the “fringes” of the forest and positioned to obstruct routes used by groups, including the ADF, into the Beni area.

But analyst Christoph Vogel believes it is too early to draw firm conclusions that the ADF, an Islamist rebel group, was responsible for this attack.

Over the past 15 years, the ADF’s main military camps have been in the Rwenzori Mountains and in the Semuliki Valley. It is a highly secretive organisation with strong historical ties to other armed groups in the area and local customary chiefs.

Read more at IRIN. 

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