Five Indian Army personnel,including a lieutenant colonel,serving on a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan were killed Tuesday when armed rebels launched an audacious attack on a convoy they were escorting.
Seven civilians working for the UN mission in the country were also killed in the attack that lasted for about an hour. Five Indian Army personnel,including a captain,suffered serious injuries.
Officials said the 37-member convoy headed to Bor town came under attack near Gumuruk town in the volatile state of Jonglei around 8.30 am local time (1230 IST).
They said the Indian group,led by two officers and soldiers from the 9 Mechanised Infantry battalion and 6 Mahar Regiment,were targeted by suspected rebels who used small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
The dead have been identified as Lt. Col. Mahipal Singh,Naib Subedar Shiv Kr Pal, Havaldars Heera Lal and Bharat Sasmal and Sipahi Naval Kishore.
Officials in New Delhi said the injured Indian soldiers were brought to the capital Juba from Jonglei in three UN helicopters and were being given emergency treatment.
Arrangements were also being made to transport the bodies of the dead soldiers home and they are likely to be flown to Delhi Tuesday night,they said.
Describing the killing of the Indian soldiers as supreme sacrifice,the Indian Army said the group which was attacked was posted in the region last September. There are around 2,200 Indian Army personnel in South Sudan comprising of two battalions,one based in Jonglei and the other in Malakal,Upper Nile,on the border with Sudan.
South Sudans military spokesman,Col. Philip Aguer,blamed the attack on fighters led by David Yau Yau,a rebel leader South Sudan believes is backed by Sudan and who it has battled for months.
South Sudan ended decades of civil war with Sudan in 2005 and peacefully formed its own country in 2011. But the south is still plagued by internal violence and shaky relations with Sudan. Leaders in Khartoum,Sudans capital,deny that they are arming Yau Yau.
With AP inputs