Eight UN peacekeepers and at least 12 Congolese soldiers were killed in a joint military operation against rebels in the Northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, facing a fatal Ebola eruption, the Security Council said on Thursday.
Ten peacekeepers were injured and missing from Wednesday’s operation aimed at the allied democratic forces, said UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
The Security Council statement said seven peacekeepers were killed from Malawi and one from Tanzania.
The common forces were attacked while carrying out operations to unleash the rebel boats from a fortress in Kididiwe, near the regional capital, Beni, a UN official said. The mission succeeded and a number of rebels were captured, the official added and spoke on terms of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter in public.
The fugitive East of Congo is home to many armed groups that appeal for the control of the mineral empire and the allied democratic forces are particularly active in the Beni area.
The Security Council urged all armed groups to immediately stop the violence and lay down their arms. It also urged the Congolese authorities to arrest and persecute the perpetrators of attacks against civilian, national security forces and peacekeepers.
The Security Council stressed that “deliberate attacks aimed at peacekeepers could constitute war crimes under international law”.
The allied democratic forces derive in Uganda as a rebel movement against that government. A military campaign forced them to move to eastern Congo.
Since October 2014, the group’s fighters killed more than 1,500 people in the Beni region. UN investigators blamed the Allied Democratic forces for the deadliest attack on peacekeeping missions in Congo in nearly 25 years, an attack by December 7 at a base near Beni who killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and injured 43 others.
Recent attacks, the group has also killed civilians and abducted children in the Beni region.
Rebel attacks have forced the suspension of efforts to contain the Ebola eruption in certain areas.
Dr. Peter Salama, Director of the World Health Organization disaster, predicted Tuesday that the Ebola eruption, which killed more than 200 people, will be at least six months.
The outbreak is “probably the most difficult context we’ve ever encountered,” said Dr. Salama, pointing out the activities of the armed rebel groups in the region.