A United Nations peacekeeper from South Africa was killed and another wounded in an attack on their helicopter in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, the organization said.
The aircraft came under fire at around 3:00 pm (1200 GMT) during a flight to Goma, the provincial capital of Nord-Kivu province, where it was able to land, a spokesman told AFP.
The source of the fire that struck the helicopter was not yet known and its precise location had yet to be determined, said Amadou Ba, a spokesperson for the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
South Africa’s military also confirmed the incident.
“An Oryx helicopter came under fire in Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday February 5, 2023,” the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) said in a statement.
“A crew member was fatally shot, another suffered injuries but managed to continue flying the chopper and landed safely at Goma Airport.
“The SANDF is in the process of informing family members of the soldiers who were involved in this unfortunate incident.”
MONUSCO chief Bintou Keita said she “strongly condemns this cowardly attack on an aircraft bearing the UN emblem”, adding that “attacks against peacekeepers can constitute a war crime”.
– Raging conflict –
On March 29, 2022, eight UN peacekeepers — six Pakistanis, one Russian and one Serb — were killed when their helicopter crashed over a combat zone between the Congolese army and M23 rebels.
Militias have plagued the mineral-rich eastern DRC for decades, many of them a legacy of regional wars that flared during the 1990s and the early 2000s.
Since November 2021, the M23 rebel group has seized chunks of territory and come within miles of the east’s main commercial hub Goma.
East African leaders called Saturday for an immediate ceasefire in eastern DRC, at an extraordinary summit called to find ways of calming the raging conflict.
The talks were hosted in Burundi by the seven-nation East African Community (EAC), which is leading mediation efforts to end the fighting in the vast central African nation.
The resurgent M23 has taken control of swathes of land in the mineral-rich east and fighting is continuing despite a peace roadmap hammered out in Angola last July, and the deployment of an East African Community force in November.
The DRC is awash with minerals and precious stones, but the decades of war and chronic mismanagement mean that little of the vast wealth trickles down to the population of some 100 million.