UN:1st peacekeeper killed in Central African Republic

2014-10-10 10:48

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New York - The United Nations on Thursday reported its first peacekeeper death in the Central African Republic since it took over the duties of trying to calm months of unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims.

The peacekeeper died in a crash after a UN convoy was attacked in the capital, Bangui, said Vannina Maestracci, a spokesperson for the UN secretary-general.

The head of the UN mission, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, said in a statement that another peacekeeper was severely wounded and seven slightly injured.

Gaye strongly condemned the Thursday evening ambush. There was no information yet on the attackers, and the nationalities of the peacekeepers were being withheld until families could be notified.

The news came shortly after commanders of the various UN peacekeeping missions gathered at United Nations headquarters for a Security Council meeting on how to deal with increasing violence and other challenges.

"As we are meeting here now, we may listen to bad news again, god forbid," said Major General Jean Bosco Kazura, the commander of the UN mission in Mali, which has lost 10 peacekeepers in the past week alone.

Central African Republic has been devastated by months of unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims that has sent thousands of Muslims fleeing the country. At least 5 000 people have died.

Many casualties

This week, Bangui is seeing its most significant violence since the UN force took over peacekeeping duties. Clashes have resulted in "many casualties", the International Committee for the Red Cross said Thursday.

An Amnesty International statement earlier on Thursday warned that the peacekeeping force was facing its "biggest test" yet amid this week's violence.

Both diplomats and mission commanders at the Security Council meeting expressed concern about the rising threat to the record number of 130 000 peacekeepers around the world — and, in turn, the people they are there to help.

The UN says 102 peacekeepers died in 2013, 36 from direct attacks and others from accidents and illnesses.

"If missions are unable to protect themselves, they will be unable to protect others," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said. He pointed out that peacekeepers are increasingly challenged by non-state entities like terrorist groups.

Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha, the commander of the UN mission on the Golan Heights, where 45 Fijian peacekeepers were held for two weeks this year by al-Qaida-linked fighters, said the fighters warned that they would do it again if they had the chance.

The UN doesn't have its own standing army and relies on contributions from its 193 member states. Countries met last month on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly of world leaders to pledge money, equipment, people and training.

In addition, the entire peacekeeping system is facing its most comprehensive UN review in 15 years.

Read more on:    un  |  central african republic  |  central africa

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