Eight Guatemalan special forces soldiers deployed as U.N. peacekeepers in eastern Congo were killed and 14 more were injured on Monday during an operation against Ugandan rebels, the United Nations said.
The U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUC, said that for the past 10 days 80 Guatemalan soldiers had been carrying out reconnaissance operations in Congo’s Garamba National Park, on the border with Sudan, looking for members of neighboring Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
“This morning, Jan. 23, 2006, eight Guatemalans were killed and 14 others wounded in an engagement which happened in Garamba park,” the U.N. said in a statement.
“The unit which was conducting an operation in this area established contact with rebel elements at 6 a.m. There followed an exchange of fire lasting four hours, requiring the intervention of armed helicopters,” the statement said.
The injured Guatemalans were taken to hospital in the Congolese town of Bunia, the statement said.
“Soldiers from the Nepalese contingent were taken by helicopter to the site of the clashes to secure the zone and undertake mopping-up operations,” it added.
The LRA, which is accused of widespread human rights abuses in northern Uganda, is just one of a number of Ugandan rebel groups still operating in northeastern Congo after a five-year war which officially ended in 2003.
The United Nations has its biggest peacekeeping force helping enforce a peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in recent months has launched several operations to dislodge Congolese and foreign rebels and militias in the east.
Guatemala has sent special forces soldiers as its contribution to the peacekeeping force.