Juba: The killers in the tragic ambush of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan, that claimed the lives of five Indian Army personnel on Tuesday, not only outnumbered their target six times over but were also armed with sophisticated weapons, eyewitnesses said. In comparison, the convoy of 35 UN peacekeepers from India was bogged down by some heavy boring equipment and unarmed technical personnel, numbering around a dozen, even as the soldiers did manage to push back their adversaries, the eyewitnesses added.
The convoy of 11 vehicles was returning from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in the world's newest country - and Africa's 54th nation - after experts from Ruaha Drilling, an Indian infrastructure company, were being escorted back after spending a month executing a borewell in the difficult swampy conditions. Ruaha is owned by Manohar Reddy Manda and Bose Reddy, entrepreneurs from Andhra Pradesh.
Besides UN-owned vehicles, four Ruaha vehicles in the middle of the convoy had been badly damaged. Those killed included two UN civilians, four Kenyans affiliated to the contractor and one South Sudanese. Two others, both Indians construction staff, had been wounded too. Eyewitnesses said that the Indian peacekeepers had progressed about 40 kms from their emanating point.
At around 9 am, some 200 armed men waylaid them from one side of the road. Outnumbered and taken by surprise, the men managed to push back even though the attackers had within minutes covered the entire convoy with weapons like anti-tank guns. Their valour has been appreciated by force commander Major General Dalai Johnson Sakyi, a two-star officer from Ghana, who flew in with Brigadier A Mistry to the Indian camp, and Hilde F Johnson, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and head of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).