By Arul Louis
United Nations, Nov 20 (IANS) An attack by a rebel group has injured an Indian police peacekeeper serving an UN operation in a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) area facing the Ebola crisis, an UN official said.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that the attack was carried out by "suspected" Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) late on Friday evening in the Boikene area in North Kivu Province.
"The member of the Indian police unit stationed there was "lightly wounded," he said. He, however, did not identify the injured person.
The outbreak of Ebola disease has intensified the crisis in the DRC that has been in the throes of ongoing battles with marauding rebel forces that have claimed the lives of 154 peacekeepers, 15 of them Indians.
The World Health Organisation said it evacuated 16 of its staff dealing with Ebola in the area after their residence was hit on Friday by a shell that, however, did not explode.
Last week, one Tanzanian and six Malawaian peacekeepers were killed by the AFD in the Beni territory near Boikene.
The latest victims were members of the Force Intervention Brigade made up of South African, Malawian and Tanzanian peacekeepers, which operates jointly with DRC military.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told IANS in an interview on Friday that although Indian peacekeepers "are not part of the Force Intervention Brigade," they were active in other areas.
"Violence is not limited to North Kivu, even though it is currently one of the most affected," he said.
For example, "the Indians played a major role in repelling when the town of Uvira was attacked", he said.
Mai-Mai militias attacked Uvira, the second largest town in the South Kivu province, in 2017.
There were 276 Indian police personnel serving as peacekeepers in the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC that is better known by its French initials, MONUSCO.
In addition, the 2,627 Indian troops serving in the mission make up its second largest contingent.
MONUSCO radio gave details of an ADF group attack in the area but it was not clear if the Indian police peacekeeper was injured in that action.
The radio said that the ADF raided the Boikene area of Rwenzori in North Kivu's Beni, and attacked a MONUSCO base on Friday evening.
The peacekeepers reacted immediately and repulsed the attack after exchanges of fire, the radio said.
"The UN Mission and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) have increased security measures in the Beni area, including around hotels occupied by UN personnel and humanitarian workers who are focused on the Ebola response, and they have also expanded their support of police operations in the Beni area," Dujarric said.
The Force Intervention Brigade intensified its campaign against the ADF on Tuesday last week "in response to repeated attacks against the civilian population of the Beni region," according to MONUSCO.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @arulouis)