New Delhi: Two Indian peacekeepers were killed in an attack on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Akobo, authorities said here Friday.
India's external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted: "Bad news from UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). 2 Indian peacekeepers lose their lives at Akobo in Jonglei State. RIP"
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.
In a statement strongly condemning the attack, UNMISS said it is doing everything possible to ascertain the circumstances on the Akobo base and secure the safety of its personnel who remain there. It said it plans to dispatch aircraft Friday to evacuate UN personnel.
"The Mission fully expects all forces, whatever their allegiance, to ensure the safety of UNMISS personnel and any civilians located inside Mission premises," it said in a statement.
At the time of the attack, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six UN police advisers and two UN civilian staffers were present at the base. About 30 South Sudanese had sought shelter from the turmoil plaguing areas of Akobo County, the Mission said in a statement.
Unknown assailants attacked the UN base in South Sudan Thursday, possibly killing or injuring civilians who had sought refuge inside during violent clashes between government forces and rebels, with the number of people fleeing to UN installations now reaching 35,000, UNMISS said.
Overall UNMISS has over 6,800 troops and police in the country, which gained independence after seceding from Sudan less than three years ago and has been thrown into turmoil since Sunday when, according to media reports, President Salva Kiir's government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, who was dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup. Hundreds of people have been killed since then, according to reports.
"The future of this young nation requires its current leadership to do everything possible to prevent South Sudan descending into the chaos that would be such a betrayal of the ideals behind its long struggle for independence," said Ban's statement.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that UNMISS, with over 6,800 troops and police, has civilian protection as part of its duties.
In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said an estimated 20,000 people, mainly women and children, are still camped at UN premises in Juba. Others are reported to be leaving the town in fear of attack by rival groups, in what she called a rapidly deteriorating security situation.
Ban and the Security Council have called on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and exercise restraint to prevent the further spread of violence.