Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – Breaking news out of the central African country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: up to 14 United Nations peace-keepers as well as five Congolese Army troops were killed with 53 others left gravely wounded in a surprise attack on their base in the eastern Congo region of North Kivu.
The U.N. base is located some 27 miles from the nearby town Beni and its mainly Tanzanian peace-keepers who are assigned to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). It was attacked by a rebel group known as Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) sometime early Friday morning.
The Allied Democratic Forces is an “ultraconservative” or Wahhabist Islamist rebel group that started in neighboring Uganda in the 1990s, and after being hunted down by the Ugandan military fled to the eastern Kivu region of the Congo. The ADF operates out of secret base camps in the Semuliki National Forest region; according to both Western and Ugandan intelligence services they have also coordinated with Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as well as receiving weapons, equipment and insurgency training from the Somalia based terror group Harakat al-Shabaab.
Details of the attack are still very unclear, but what is clear is that this attack is shaping to be one of the most devastating in MONUSCO and the United Nations’ history. Deputy Spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, called the attack one of the “worst in recent memory,” adding that this was “a very huge attack.”
The U.N. base houses one of the only offensive military units under U.N. command known as the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). The FIB’s formation and deployment in the Congo was announced by the U.N.’s MONUSCO in July 2013 in response to the increasing violent rebel uprisings within the central Kasai and northern Kivu regions. The intent of the FIB was to “enforce a security zone around the flashpoint city of Goma in the eastern part of the country. The security zone will push these indirect fire threats out of range of Goma [and] may be expanded and repeated elsewhere, where it is needed.”
The FIB is comprised of troops from South Africa and Malawi, but the majority of its soldiers come from Tanzania. It has about 3,ooo troops on hand in the Kivu and Kasai regions. This is the U.N.’s first direct action or offensive peace-keeping unit that utilizes its special forces, reconnaissance and artillery capabilities in addition to three battalions of infantry to hunt down and destroy rebel units such as the ADF.
Attacks on the FIB and its base have increased in 2017 with two U.N. peace-keepers gunned down near Beni in October, as well as two U.N. peace-keepers, Michael Sharp and Zahida Katalan, found beheaded in a shallow grave just east in the Kasai Central province in March of this year.
It is suspected that the ADF attacked the U.N. base outside Beni as a reprisal against the FIB and its direct action operations against the rebel group. However, in a statement to BBC early this morning, MONUSCO spokesperson, Maman Sidikou, had this to say in regards to this heinous act: “I condemn in the strongest terms this deadly attack on United Nations peace-keepers and the FARDC. MONUSCO will take all actions to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable and brought to justice.”
This is a fluid situation and SOFREP will continue to monitor these events and update as new information comes in.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.