A South African peacekeeper was killed and another seriously wounded Sunday when their helicopter was shot at in the violence-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly” condemned the attack, saying in a statement that “attacks on UN peacekeepers can constitute a war crime under international law.
The plane, which was flying from Beni, came under fire at around 3pm (12pm GMT) on a flight to Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, where it eventually landed.
The South African army confirmed this information in the evening, saying in a statement that the Onyx helicopter had come under fire, that “one crew member was killed, another injured but he managed to continue to steer the aircraft and land it.
The South African defence, after informing “the families of the soldiers involved in this unfortunate incident”, said it would provide further details “in due course”.
According to Amadou Ba, a spokesman for the United Nations mission in the DRC (Monusco), the origin of the shots is not yet known and their precise location has yet to be determined.
– Cowardly attack” –
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Bintou Keita, the head of Monusco, condemned a “cowardly attack against an aircraft bearing the emblem of the United Nations.
Mr Guterres called on the Congolese authorities “to investigate this heinous act and to bring those responsible swiftly to justice”.
The UN “will continue to support the Congolese government and people in their efforts to bring peace and stability to the east of the country,” he said.
The shooting at a UN helicopter comes a day after a meeting in Burundi between several East African heads of state, including the Congolese and Rwandan presidents, between whom relations have been at odds in recent months.
The summit concluded with a call for an “immediate ceasefire by all parties” and a withdrawal of all armed groups, “including foreigners” in eastern DRC.
On 29 March 2022, eight peacekeepers (six Pakistanis, one Russian, one Serb) were killed when their helicopter crashed over a combat zone between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels.
Since November 2021, the predominantly Tutsi M23 rebellion has seized territory north of Goma. The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting it, which is corroborated by UN experts and Western countries, but Kigali denies it.