UN peacekeeping mission helicopter shot down in Congo

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A helicopter of the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), or MONUSCO, was shot down by rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23), with eight people on board, said the DRC armed forces (FARDC).

The tragedy took place on Tuesday as several FARDC military positions had been attacked since early Monday by M23 rebels in the Rutshuru territory of the northeastern North Kivu province, the same area where the MONUSCO helicopter crashed, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The helicopter was shot down in the midst of a mission to assess the population movements caused by the M23 attacks in the region for the humanitarian actions,” read the statement issued by the military governor of North Kivu, while accusing the M23 of having shot down the plane in an area where rebels are staging an offensive.

According to the statement, the downed helicopter had eight peacekeepers and UN observers on board. For the moment, the military authorities have indicated that they are working hard to find the wreckage of the downed aircraft and survivors.

According to a MONUSCO briefing released earlier, the helicopter, which was on a reconnaissance mission, crashed around noon, local time. The MONUSCO has not yet confirmed the FARDC accusations and the casualty.

The M23 is a group of former rebels of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP). The name came from the March 23, 2009, agreement between the CNDP and the Congolese government, which M23 leaders claimed had not been respected by the government.

The cause of the air crash remains unknown, and a search-and-rescue mission is underway.

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