At least 13 people have been killed by unidentified attackers in an ambush on a UN convoy in South Sudan. The UN has warned of an investigation into the deaths of the five Indian peacekeepers and seven civilians.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack on Tuesday, which saw armed gunmen open fire on UN vehicles in the restive eastern state of Jonglei.
According to the UN’s deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey, Ban called on the government in Juba to “swiftly” apprehend the perpetrators, adding that the UN was considering the launch of a war crimes investigation into the attack.
Ban issued a reminder “that the killing of peacekeepers is a war crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” del Buey said. He named the victims as five Indian peacekeepers, two UN mission national staff and five civilian staff contractors.
At least nine soldiers were also injured, with some in a “critical condition,” del Buey said.
In New Delhi, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin confirmed that five Indian peacekeepers were among the dead and that four injured Indian soldiers had been flown by UN helicopters to Juba.
While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, South Sudan has pointed the finger at followers of rebel leader David Yau Yau. The South’s military has been battling rebels led by Yau Yau in the region for several months. According to South Sudan’s military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, the rebels are backed by the government in Sudan.
“Definitely this attack was carried out by David Yau Yau’s militia,” Aguer said. “They have been launching ambushes even on the SPLA for about six months now,” he added, using the acronym for South Sudan’s military.
Khartoum has previously denied arming Yau Yau.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July 2011, following decades of civil war. Since then relations between the two nations have been shaky. The South is also struggling to impose its authority over large swathes of the restive nation.
Last month, more than 150 people were killed in Jonglei in a battle between South Sudan’s army and Yau Yau’s insurgents.
ccp/mz (AFP, AP, Reuters)