Zee Media Bureau
Juba: As violence and unrest continued unabated in South Sudan, two Indian peacekeepers were killed and one was injured on Thursday when attackers stormed a United Nations base in the world`s newest country where civilians had taken refuge. Some reports had earlier said that three Indian peacekeepers were killed.
Confirming the news, Additional Directorate General of Public Information, IHQ of MoD (Army) tweeted this morning:
Two Indian Peacekeepers killed and One injured on 19 Dec whilst serving under the UN Flag in South Sudan. #Southsudan
— ADG PI - INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) December 20, 2013
Sub Dharmesh Sangwan and Sub Kumar Pal Singh were "killed in crossfire protecting Dinka Tribes from hundreds of Armed Rebels," said another tweet.
Rebels from the second-largest ethnic group, the Nuer, stormed the base in Akobo in Jonglei state, targeting civilians of the majority Dinka ethnic community.
India`s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin also tweeted: "Bad news from UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). 2 Indian peacekeepers lose their lives at Akobo in Jonglei State. RIP"
About 1500-2000 rebels attacked the base where 43 Indian peacekeepers were present along with six UN police advisers and two civilians.
Meanwhile, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Ltd chairman has said that if the need arises, he would recall officials from South Sudan.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said about 30 South Sudanese had sought shelter from the turmoil plaguing areas of Akobo County. The UNMISS, in a statement, strongly condemned the attack. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "appalled" to learn of the attack on the UNMISS base in Akobo and demanded that the government and opposition forces respect the rights of civilians and ensure their safety and security.
The UN has said there were reports of more casualties but did given any further details.
The mission said it is doing everything possible to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the assault on the base and secure the safety of its personnel who remain there.
South Sudan has been in turmoil since President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of mounting a coup.
The unrest, which broke out on Sunday, has killed some 500 people so far. The conflict first erupted in the capital Juba but has since spread.
Kiir, who is a Dinka, has blamed the violence on a group of soldiers who support Machar, a Nuer.
The President accused them of trying to take power by force on Sunday night in a coup attempt by Machar, a claim the former vice president denies.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned by reports of growing violence in many parts of South Sudan, human rights abuses and killings fuelled by ethnic tensions".
However, the government insists the clashes are over power and politics, noting that both sides involved in the clashes include leaders from different tribes.
"We condemn in strongest possible terms attempts to depict the coup as ethnic strife," a government statement said.
(With Agency inputs)