Wed, 10 Apr 2013 04:01:36 GMT

Lt. Col. among five Indian peacekeepers killed in South Sudan

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Five Indian UN peacekeepers, including a lieutenant colonel, were killed in a gun battle after a rebel group ambushed them in South Sudan while escorting a UN convoy.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony condoled the killing of the Indian peacekeepers and lauded their bravery.

However, while the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said four soldiers had been injured, the Ministry of Defence said that three had been wounded.

"Peacekeepers from India in UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan) were attacked in Jonglei. Five are dead and four wounded," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.

"Peacekeepers killed in South Sudan: Lt. Col. Mahipal singh; Nb Sub Shiv Kumar Pal; Hav Hira Lal; Hav Bharat Singh; Sep Nand Kishore," he tweeted.

"Indian peacekeepers injured in #UNMISS in South Sudan 1. Capt Bhagirath 2. Havaldar Ram 3. Naik Nagender Kumar 4. Sepoy Rajiv Kumar," Akbaruddin tweeted.

Akbaruddin said: "It happened this morning about 8:30 a.m. The convoy carrying 32 Indian soldiers was attacked by rebels. There were five casualties, including a lieutenant colonel, a JCO (junior commissioner officer) and three soldiers. Four others have been wounded."

"We were informed that there were five casualties of Indian battalion that was attached to the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan. They were escorting a UN convoy in the volatile state of Jonglei in South Sudan," he told a TV channel.

"The casualties, including the injured, are being brought back by the UN by helicopters from Jonglei to Juba (the capital of South Sudan)," Akbarudddin said.

He said that the Indian ambassador in South Sudan, along an officer of the Army Medical Corps, were at Juba airport to receive the bodies and the injured.

"The first priority will be emergency treatment for the injured and they will be sent to UN mission hospital in South Sudan and then as per the advise of the medical team, they then will be transferred appropriately," he said.

"With respect to those who have paid the highest price and laid down their lives, our embassy will work with the UN to bring back their bodies to India," he added.

Akbaruddin said the Indian embassy is in touch with the UN on the issue.

"We have 2,200 India personnel in South Sudan. Our embassy is in touch with UN representative on this matter," he added.

A defence ministry release said that the bodies of the deceased soldiers were being brought to India for their final rites with full military honours.

The Indian Army has contributed to UN Peacekeeping operations around the world for over six decades and has currently over 7,000 troops on four missions.

©Indo-Asian News Service

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