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UN helicopter carrying eight shot down by rebels in Congo

DAKAR, SENEGAL (AP) – Congo’s army said rebels in the country’s east shot down a United Nations (UN) helicopter carrying eight peacekeepers and UN observers on Tuesday and the UN said there were no survivors.

The helicopter was carrying out reconnaissance for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo along with another helicopter when it was attacked, according to a statement from Congo’s army.

The UN peacekeepers on the helicopter were assessing the movements of communities that had been attacked by a rebel group in order to coordinate humanitarian assistance.

The M23 rebel group on Monday attacked several villages including Tchanzu, Runyonyi, Ndiza and Tchengerero, according to the statement.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said later that a search and rescue operation found the wreckage and there were no survivors. “We convey our condolences to the governments and families of the six crew members from Pakistan and the two military staff from Russia and Serbia,” Dujarric said.

FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) soldiers and UN peacekeepers escort civillian vehicles. PHOTO: AFP

Earlier, Dujarric confirmed the helicopter was there to monitor the situation where there had been fighting, but asked for patience as to the cause of its crash.

Eastern Congo is prone to insecurity as several armed groups are vying for control of its mineral-rich lands. In 2012 the M23 rebels controlled large areas of eastern Congo, including the provincial capital of Goma. Despite ongoing efforts to disarm the group, M23 rebels have recently increased their attacks in the region.

UN Special Representative for Congo Bintou Keita told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the security situation in Congo has, since December, “deteriorated despite military operations carried out by the Congolese security and defence forces”.

“In the past three months, we have seen an alarming increase in activities by the M23 rebel movement in North Kivu,” including Monday’s attacks targetting civilians near Rutshuru, she said.