Bangladesh peacekeeper killed in attack on aid convoy in South Sudan

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United Nations, June 27 (IANS) A Bangladeshi officer serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has been killed in an attack on an aid convoy in the country torn by civil conflict, according to the UN.

Lieutenant Commander Ashraf Siddiqui was hit by shots fired by “unknown gunmen” on Tuesday and died shortly afterward, Francesca Mold, the spokesperson for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement.

Siddiqui, who was the Bangladesh military liaison officer with UNMISS, was travelling in the Central Equatorian region with the humanitarian aid convoy that was being protected by Nepalese peacekeepers when it was attacked, the statement said.

The Nepalese peacekeepers returned fire and the attackers retreated into a forest, it added.

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South Sudan collapsed into civil war in 2013 when then-Vice President Riek Machar broke away from the government of President Salva Kiir.

Since then government forces have been battling rebels supporting Machar while some smaller groups have also joined the fray.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack by the armed group and expressed deep regret at the tragic loss of life, his Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

UNMISS head and Guterres’s Special Representative David Shearer said: “It is a tragedy that he lost his life in such an appalling act of violence while working to help those in need and to protect the lives of others.”

“Peacekeepers and aid workers should be able to carry out their work freely and safely and not be subjected to the kind of senseless attack we have witnessed today,” he added.

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A total of 56 peacekeepers have been killed in UNMISS operations since it was set up in 2011.

Siddiqui is the fourth Bangladeshi peacekeeper to be killed in UNMISS operations and the 145th in all UN operations.

He is the fifth Bangladeshi peacekeeper to die in action in 2018.

The other four were killed in March in a mine explosion in Mali.

There are 1,709 Bangladeshis, 1,576 Nepalis and 2,341 Indians serving in UNMISS.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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