Indian soldiers in South Sudan fought with bravery: UN

United Nations: Despite being outnumbered, Indian peacekeepers fought with valour and prevented more casualties in the recent attack against a UN peacekeeping convoy that killed five Indian soldiers in South Sudan, a senior UN official said on Sunday.

Assistant Secretary General for Field Support, United Nations, Anthony Banbury travelled to Jonglei state in South Sudan and met the Indian contingent in the wake of the April 9 attack that killed five Indian peacekeepers including a Lieutenant Colonel and five civilian UN staff contractors.

Banbury, who received a briefing by the contingent commander about the incident, said the attackers numbered around 150-200 while only 35 Indian soldiers were escorting the convoy.

"It was clear that this was an unprovoked, unjustified and deliberate ambush against the convoy. The Indian soldiers fought with great professionalism, bravery and distinction," Banbury told PTI over phone from the South Sudanese capital of Juba.

He said the Indian soldiers showed "gallantry" in defending themselves and the civilians in the convoy adding that the number of deaths on the UN side would have been "much worse" had the Indian soldiers not fought with "such determination and professionalism."

Banbury said the Indian peacekeepers in the UN mission in South Sudan are "upset" at the loss of their comrades but "they will continue to carry on their work in a professional and dedicated manner. We are lucky to have the Indian soldiers in our peacekeeping operations."

"In terms of the morale and feeling of the contingent, we were all very upset at the loss of the soldiers. The soldiers in the contingent are particularly distraught at the loss of their comrades but they have a very high morale. They are professional soldiers," he said.

"The rest of the UN mission is very determined to continue on with our work. I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for how the Indian contingent dealt with the attack," he said.

Giving details of the attack, Banbury said the Indian army personnel who was second in command was shot early on in the attack but he continued to organise the defence.

The Jonglei state is a particularly challenging area for the UN and the Indian troops that are stationed there.

The personnel killed in the incident were Lt Col Mahipal Singh, Havaldars Heera Lal and Bharat Sasmal from 9 Mechanised Infantry and Naib Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal and Sipahi Naval Kishore from 6 Mahar.

Banbury said the attack was organised and the soldiers were set upon by the assailants without warning.

In the wake of the attack, UN officials are looking at putting in place additional security measures to protect and ensure safety of the soldiers and the mission.

Banbury said he has stressed to authorities in Jonglei state that an investigation into the attack be carried out and those responsible identified and "punished appropriately."

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon had strongly condemned the attack saying that killing of peacekeepers is a war crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.