KINSHASA (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen have killed a Pakistani peacekeeper in an ambush on a United Nations convoy in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a spokesman for the U.N. mission said on Wednesday.
The attack took place on Tuesday evening in the province of South Kivu and comes as the U.N. reinforces its mission with an aggressive force tasked with defeating rebels at the heart of two decades of conflict.
“We can’t say who was behind the attack but it appears that the convoy was specifically targeted. An investigation is under way to find out who did it,” said Biliaminou Alao, a spokesman for the 17,000 peacekeeping mission in South Kivu.
The incident was some 200 km (120 miles) away from territory controlled by Tutsi-led M23 rebels but, coming on the back of the Tutsi-led year-long insurgency, it underscores how fragile the distant capital’s control is in Congo’s eastern border regions that are riddled with armed groups.
Alao said two other peacekeepers were slightly wounded during the attack, which took place in an area where armed groups including the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militants and local militia Raia Mutomboki are both known to operate.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Congolese authorities to bring those responsible to justice, saying he was “appalled” by the killing.
The death brings to 32 the number of peacekeeping troops killed in Congo since the mission started in 1999, according to the mission website.
Years of war have seen politicians, rebels and neighboring countries battle to protect territory and control resources across mineral-rich eastern Congo. Millions have been killed as a result of the fighting.
The U.N. is preparing to deploy its first “intervention brigade” - 3,000 soldiers charged with carrying out targeted offensive action rather than just protecting civilians or themselves.
Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by David Lewis and Louise Ireland