New Delhi: Five Indian soldiers, part of the peacekeeping force, escorting a United Nations convoy in South Sudan have been killed in an ambush by Sudanese rebels. The five killed includes a Lt Colonel. Four other soldiers have also been injured in the incident, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed on Tuesday.
External Affairs ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin wrote on social networking site Twitter that, "The Indian Embassy is in touch with UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) to arrange for return of the remains of 5 Indian peacekeepers killed by rebels in South Sudan."
Army sources said that the attack took place at 0930 hrs local time in Jonglei near Gumruk. A Lieutenant Colonel and a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) were among those killed in the incident, they added.
Since South Sudan got independence in July 2011, it has witnessed ethnic strife, with Pibor county, the main base of UN peacekeeping force, being the centre of much of the violence. Last month, an Indian soldier was shot there amid fears of a government crackdown. India is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping forces around the world and has suffered losses in the past.
In 2010, rebels hacked to death three Indians in their camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A UN helicopter was also downed there in December. UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson had said in March that the government was expected to soon launch an offensive against fighters loyal to local rebel leader David Yau Yau.
As on February 28, 2013, the strength of the forces in Sudan was - 7176 uniformed personnel, 6478 troops, 144 military liaison officers, 554 police, 852 international civilian personnel (as on December 31, 2012), 1349 local civilian staff (as on December 31, 2012) and 397 United Nations Volunteers.
Defense Minister AK Antony condoled the death of the five Indian Army personnel.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)