Tanzanian Troops

The United Nations peacekeepers force in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday paid tribute to Tanzanian troops who were killed in combat last week.

It was the force’s biggest single loss in nearly a quarter of a century.

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The soldiers were killed on Thursday in the conflict-torn east of the country after clashes with suspected Ugandan Muslim rebels, the Allied Democratic Forces.

“The death of our Tanzanian friends shall be written in the history of the Congolese nation, in tribute to their sacrifice,” said Congolese General Leon Mushale.

“They will remain in the hearts of the Congolese people.”

Tanzanian and Nepalese troops formed a guard for 14 fallen soldiers whose coffins were draped with the Tanzanian flag in a ceremony near Beni, in North Kivu province.

The bodies of the Tanzanian troops are to be repatriated on Tuesday or Wednesday, the Tanzanian army said on Sunday.

The UN had earlier reported the death toll of the soldiers to be 15 but revised it to 14 on Sunday.

The Tanzanian press, however, reports that two soldiers are still missing.

The UN’s deputy special representative for the DRC, David Gressly, ha promised that the peacekeepers would not step back from their work despite the severe blow they were dealt.

“The Blue Helmets will continue to protect the people of Beni,” he pledged.

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The attack is the bloodiest against MONUSCO, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since its deployment in 1999.

It was also the worst against a UN force since the death of 24 Pakistani peacekeepers in Somalia in June 1993.

The European Union on Monday in a statement issued in Kinshasa said the “unacceptable attack… underscores the fragility of the security situation in eastern DRC, amplified by the current uncertainty over the country’s political situation.”

It called on the DRC authorities to carry out an inquiry “so that those responsible can be swiftly brought to justice.”