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Annan condemns killing of UN peacekeepers in Congo

Annan condemns killing of eight UN peacekeepers in DR of Congo

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the killing today of eight Guatemalan peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the wounding of five others as they sought Ugandan rebels who had displaced thousands of local civilians from a park.

Mr. Annan also expressed deep condolences to the Government of Guatemala, the families of the deceased soldiers and all the other victims.

The peacekeeping troops had been engaged in reconnaissance operations for the past 10 days against suspected elements of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), reported to be present in the Garamba National Park in the Haut Uélé district in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), about 70 kilometres from the border with Sudan.

During a four-hour firefight, peacekeepers from MONUC’s Nepalese contingent were airlifted by helicopter to the scene of the fighting where they conducted a cordon and search operation.

The five wounded peacekeepers were evacuated to a UN Mission hospital in Bunia, the capital of the Ituri district, also in the country’s north-east.

In a separate development, Indian peacekeepers on reconnaissance and heading to the city of Rawindi in the North Kivus came under fire from armed insurgents. They returned fire in self-defence and, in the firefight that followed, four of the rebels were killed and three were captured.

The peacekeepers captured 20 weapons, as well as ammunition and communications equipment.

They had gone to the area following armed confrontations between soldiers now serving in the DRC’s national army and former soldiers who had refused to take part in the new army integration process.

MONUC said it was sending in a humanitarian team to assess the needs of thousands of people who were displaced by the fighting.

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