UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Members of an armed group fired on a U.N. helicopter in eastern Congo early Friday, injuring two South African peacekeepers, one seriously, the United Nations said.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. peacekeeping department assumes the attack was carried out by members of the M23 rebel group in the Karuba region of North Kivu province, in Masisi territory.
Eastern Congo has struggled with armed violence for decades as more than 120 groups fight for power, land and valuable mineral resources, while others try to defend their communities. The armed groups have long waged campaigns of violence in the mineral-rich region and have been accused of mass killings.
The conflict spiked in late 2021 when M23, which had been largely dormant, resurfaced and initiated attacks to seize territory. The group allegedly has support from neighboring Rwanda, though that country’s government denies ties.
Dujarric said the helicopter that was hit was able to land safely in Goma, and the peacekeepers were receiving medical attention.
Bintou Keita, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, strongly condemned the attack on an aircraft with the U.N. emblem. It took place almost a year after a similar attack killed a South African peacekeeper, she said in a statement.
Attacks on U.N. peacekeepers may constitute war crimes, and Keita said the Congo mission would spare no effort, in cooperation with Congolese authorities, to bring those responsible for the attack to justice.