Indian soldiers come under fire in South Sudan

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United Nations, Jan 16: An Indian peacekeeping contingent in South Sudan came under fire as fighting erupted between local groups near a UN base in Malakal, requiring the soldiers to fire multiple rounds in order to protect civilians.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said a young teenager seeking shelter at the Malakal base was killed by the bullets after gunfire entered the UN base there on January 14. The mission said dozens of civilians and a UN military officer suffered gunshot wounds inside the base and received medical attention at the mission's hospital.

There were no immediate details of the names of those killed and injured. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters at his briefing yesterday that this was not an attack on the UN compound but after fighting erupted between different groups nearby, live rounds and gunfire was coming into the compound.

The peacekeepers fired multiple rounds of gunfire to deter anyone engaged in fighting from coming too close to the UN base in order to protect civilians. "The bulk of the peacekeepers (at the base) are from an Indian contingent and multiple rounds were fired to deter those that were fighting each other outside from coming closer to the compound, because of course, had they come closer, more fire could have entered into the compound," Nesirky added.

Ban reiterated that those responsible for attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and United Nations personnel will be held accountable. While fighting has stopped in Malakal the situation remains fluid. The UN mission said sporadic gunfire can still be heard some distance from the UN base, where some 20,000 civilians are seeking protection.

The Mission also continues to report loud explosions and gunfire in the vicinity of its base in Bor, where it is protecting 9,000 civilians within the UN base. Last year, seven Indian soldiers had died in South Sudan. In an attack in April, five Indian UNMISS peacekeepers were killed when they were ambushed by about 200 attackers near Jonglei State as they escorted a United Nations convoy.

Two UNMISS Indian Battalion troops were killed in action and one was injured on December 19 in Akobo following an assault on a UNMISS base.

PTI

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