A Pakistani Puma helicopter deployed as part of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) has crashed with eight people on board. The Congolese army says rebels in the country’s east shot the aircraft down.
A spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, in New York confirmed the crash and gave the nationality of all eight victims.
The peacekeepers were on a reconnaissance flight over Tshanzu, southeast of Rutshuru in North Kivu Province.
“While undertaking a reconnaissance mission in Congo, 1 Puma Helicopter crashed. Exact cause of crash is yet to be ascertained,” the Pakistani military’s media wing said.
The helicopter came down in an area controlled by the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels, General Sylvain Ekenge, a spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu province, said in a statement.
Congolese military authorities in North Kivu said the M23 rebel group had “shot down” the aircraft, a claim which has been denied by the group.
UN’s Monusco said six crew members from the Pakistani military and two military personnel – one from Russia and one from Serbia were on board of the Puma helicopter when it went down.
Pakistan’s military said all eight were killed. They did not say what caused the crash. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement an aviation mission of Pakistan was deployed in UN Mission Congo on peacekeeping duties since 2011.
“Pakistan has always played a pivotal role as a responsible member of the international community to help realise ideals of global peace and security through active support in various UN peacekeeping missions,” the statement read.
“Our peacekeepers have always distinguished themselves in executing challenging peacekeeping tasks in conflict-prone areas through devotion and, if necessary, [by] rendering supreme sacrifices.”
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, expressed his “deep sense of shock and grief”, his office said, paying tribute to the global peace effort by the country’s armed forces.