United Nations officials have strongly condemned today’s attack by the M23 rebel group against an unarmed helicopter belonging to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the such incident in less than a week.
The latest attack occurred this morning when the helicopter came under direct fire from positions held by the M23 over Kibumba, Rutshuru, in the province of North Kivu, according to a news release issued by the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).
“There was no damage to the helicopter and there were no injuries to personnel,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, and the Special Envoy, Mary Robinson, are currently in Kampala, Uganda, to observe the talks between the Congolese Government and the M23.
“MONUSCO believes that nothing should distract or disturb a successful outcome of the Kampala talks,” the Mission said in the news release.
In last week’s incident, an unarmed MONUSCO helicopter carrying out a reconnaissance mission came under direct fire from positions held by the M23 in the Rumangabo region.
Mr. Kobler had stated then that MONUSCO air missions shall proceed. “M23 rebels will not prevent us from using the Congolese air space. We shall continue doing all in our power to defend civilian populations including by using force if necessary,” he had stated.
The M23 – composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April – along with other armed groups, has clashed repeatedly with the DRC national forces (FARDC).
In the past year, clashes have continued sporadically throughout eastern DRC, with rebels briefly occupying the main city, Goma, in November 2012. The fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced persons and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.