A team of 20 specialists doctors of Indian army, based in the Congo, is working relentlessly to save the lives of their counterparts of the Tanzanian army, who sustained severe injuries in one of the worst attacks on United Nation peacekeepers in the African nation. They have even managed to save the lives of at least 38 Tanzanian army personnel so far.
Indian army, also posted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for peacekeeing measures, sprung into action after heavily armed militants killed at least 15 peacekeepers and five soldiers in an attack on their convoy on December 7.
More than 50 peacekeepers were left wounded after fighters from a local Islamist extremist group overran a remote base in the east of the vast central African country after hours of fighting.
Though none of the Indian peacekeepers was injured in the attack, doctors from the Indian army came forward for the aid.
Since Indian army has a brigade of about 3,500 soldiers posted in the area on UN peacekeeping duty, an Indian level-III hospital is also functional there at Goma.
"Our Indian army doctors have operated 32 major and minor surgeries on the 38 injured Tanzanian army personnel. Earlier in the same month, the hospital had provided similar medical assistance to 18 Tanzanian and eight Malawian soldiers on two separate instances," a senior Indian army official told THE WEEK, while describing about the hospital, which has been serving the UN since February 2005 and its efforts are widely recognised not just in Congo but across the entire UN.
The hospital, which has a staff of 90 personnel including specialists capable of carrying out life and limb saving surgeries, has been providing yeoman service not only to UN peacekeepers but also to the Congolese national army and even to locals.
India's UN peacekeeping force is presently deployed in the most unstable provinces of Congo. An Indian brigade commonly known as NKB is deployed in the restive North Kivu province and covers an area of 43,700 sq km having 948 villages. The brigade, besides protecting civilians, assists in operations against illegal armed groups.
Indian peacekeepers have been tirelessly working towards establishing peace in DRC, a country marred by active presence of hundreds of armed groups and recurring inter-ethnic clashes. It is also increasingly being pushed into the spiral of violence by electoral politics.
"Till date lives of 110 UN peacekeepers deployed in MONUSCO, the UN mission in DRC, have been lost. They include Indian bravehearts such as Capt G.S. Salaria, who was later awarded Param Vir Chakra," an official said. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO, an acronym based on its French name is a United Nations peacekeeping force in DRC.
Officials claim that in this continued violence, certain armed groups have, off late, targeted the UN peacekeepers in order to retain control of areas and to pursue illegal exploitation of resources of this mineral rich nation.
In one such attack on October 9 by a Ugandan-linked armed group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), 26 civilians were massacred while two UN personnel and five soldiers of the Congolese National Army laid down their lives. The ADF again carried out an attack on UN peacekeepers at Semuliki on December 7, inflicting almost 70 causalities, the highest for UN peacekeepers in recent times.
The Congolese army has also been frequently targeted by these Illegal armed groups and casualties continue.
According to an official, following intelligence inputs of threat, towards south in areas held by an Indian army brigade, a proactive deployment and domination strategy was adopted. In addition, Nepalese and Uruguan forces placed under operational control of the Indian army have also been put on high alert.
A number of similar attacks by ADF and Mai Mai (local armed groups) in recent months have been effectively repulsed by the Indian troops.