New Delhi, Apr 9 (PTI): Five Indian Army personnel, including a Lt Colonel were killed today and four injured during a UN peacekeeping mission when their 32-member convoy was attacked in Gurmuck in the volatile state of Jonglei, South Sudan.
“The convoy, comprising 32 Indian soldiers, was attacked and the casualties included 1 Lt Colonel, 1 Junior Commission Officer and 3 jawans. There were also 4 wounded, of which 1 is of officer level.” The attack took place at 0930 hrs local time (12.35 IST).
“The Indian casualties, including the injured (together with other local civilian casualties) are being brought by 3 UN helicopters from Jonglei to Juba,” official sources said. While there will be emergency treatment for the injured in the UN mission hospital in South Sudan, the arrangements were being made to bring back the bodies of those killed, they said.
The sources also said India’s Ambassador will be meeting with the Special Representative of the UNSG in South Sudan, Hilda Johnson to ascertain further details and to facilitate all arrangements, as necessary.
There are around 2,200 Indian Army personnel comprising two battalions, one based in Jonglei and the other in Malakkal, Upper Nile, on the border with Sudan. Since South Sudan got independence in July 2011, it has witnessed ethnic strife, with Pibor county, the main base of UN peacekeeping force, being the centre of much of the violence.
Last month, an Indian soldier was shot there amid fears of a government crackdown. India is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping forces around the world and has suffered losses in the past.
Army sources said the convoy led by two officers and soldiers from 9 Mechanised Infantry battalion and 6 Mahar Regiment was escorting a convoy of UN vehicles from Gurmuck to Bor in South Sudan when a suspected militia group attacked it with small arms and Rocket-propelled Grenades (RPGs).
The firefight between the Indian troops and the militia group continued for more than one hour in which the one officer, one JCO and three jawans were killed.
The personnel killed in the incident were Lt Col Mahipal Singh, Havaldars Heera Lal and Bharat Sasmal from 9 Mechanised Infantry and Naib Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal and Sipahi Naval Kishore from 6 Mahar.
Defence Minister A K Antony expressed his condolences at the unfortunate loss of lives of Indian soldiers in the incident.
“Antony also conveyed his grief to the families of the fallen soldiers and lauded their bravery in the highest traditions of the Indian Army and in contribution to the peace and security in the world,” the ministry said in a release.
India has deployed a total of 7099 army personnel in UN Peacekeeping missions in Congo, Golan Heights, South Sudan, Lebanon, Ivory Coas and East Timor where ten of its soldiers have been killed in the last three years including seven in Congo (MONUSCO), two in Sudan (UNMIS) and one in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The UN pays a compensation USD 70,000 to the next of kin in death cases, whereas the disability compensation is decided as per the degree of disability suffered by a soldier on active duty in UN Peacekeeping Operations.