Five Indian Army soldiers including a lieutenant colonel were killed and five including an officer were wounded today in South Sudan when they were escorting an UN convoy in the trouble-torn African nation.
The soldiers were attacked in Jonglei, a province where an Indian Army battalion is deployed to assist the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).
The convoy that came under attack consisted of 32 Indian soldiers. Along with the officer, a junior commissioned officer and three soldiers lost their lives in the attack.
Army sources said the convoy was 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.
"At this stage we are unable to confirm details of the attackers. As soon as we have it we will share it with you," Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin told Times Now. He added that they were in touch with the families of the soldiers who were killed.
"The casualties including the injured are being brought back to Juba, the capital of South Sudan by a UN helicopter. The injured will be provided with immediate medical treatment and will be shifted later upon medical advise," he said.
There are two infantry battalions of the Indian Army consisting of around 2,200 soldiers deployed in South Sudan. The second battalion is based in Malakal. As a major contributor to UN peacekeeping forces around the world India has suffered losses in the past. In 2010, rebels hacked to death three Indians in their camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Jonglei has been the scene of widespread ethnic conflict since South Sudan became independent in July 2011. Much of the trouble has been in Pibor county, where the UN peacekeeping force is based. An Indian soldier was shot and wounded there in March amid high tensions about an imminent government crackdown.A UN helicopter was also downed there in December.
With input from IBNLive & PTI