Juba: The killers in the tragic ambush of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan that claimed the lives of five Indian Army personnel Tuesday not only outnumbered their target six times over but were also armed with sophisticated weapons, eyewitnesses said.
In comparison, the convoy of 35 UN peacekeepers from India was bogged down by some heavy boring equipment and unarmed technical personnel, numbering around a dozen, even as the soldiers did manage to push back their adversaries, the eyewitnesses added.
The convoy of 11 vehicles was returning from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in the world’s newest country – and Africa’s 54th nation – after experts from Ruaha Drilling, an Indian infrastructure company, were being escorted back after spending a month executing a borewell in the difficult swampy conditions.
Ruaha is owned by Manohar Reddy Manda and Bose Reddy, entrepreneurs from Andhra Pradesh.
Besides UN-owned vehicles, four Ruaha vehicles in the middle of the convoy had been badly damaged, a company senior told this IANS columnist, requesting not to be named, as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Those killed included two UN civilians, four Kenyans affiliated to the contractor and one South Sudanese. Two others, both Indians construction staff, have been wounded too.
Eyewitnesses said that the Indian peacekeepers had progressed about 40 km from their emanating point.
At around 9 a.m., some 200 armed men waylaid them from one side of the road. Outnumbered and taken by surprise, the men managed to push back even though the attackers had within minutes covered the entire convoy with weapons like anti-tank guns.
Their valour has been appreciated by force commander Major General Dalai Johnson Sakyi, a two-star officer from Ghana, who flew in with Brigadier A. Mistry to the Indian camp, and Hilde F. Johnson, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and head of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The bodies of the five peacekeepers – Lt. Col. Mahipal Singh, Naib Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal, Lance Naik Nand Kishore Joshi, Havaldar Bharat Sasmal and Havaldar Hira Lal – were brought to the Indian capital early Thursday.
In South Sudan, while UN vehicles have often been spared, a major exception being a helicopter shot down in December killing four Russian peacekeepers, ambushes of convoys carrying South Sudan’s local forces is common because the road network is minimal.
At the time of independence in July 2011, the nation had barely 200 km of black-top roads. The only other connectivity, thus, is via a decrepit riverine network over the White Nile and seasonal roads made of “morrum” and black cotton soil.
In the parts that experience heavy rains, even this makeshift network becomes un-operational, typically from June until December.
Jonglei, the largest of the 10 states of this country spanning a massive 122,000 sq km in the east, has seen many deaths in recent months, including 150 people during battles between the South Sudanese military and insurgents led by local rebel leader David Yau Yau.
It isn’t yet clear if and why Yau was behind the latest attack.
India has currently committed 8,093 soldiers, out of a total of 93,368 UN peacekeepers, across the world. Only Pakistan and Bangladesh have more. The consequent risk to Indian lives is obvious.
But many volunteer, eager to take the risk not only because it adds to their bio-data, but also pays them handsomely, while also protecting their existing pay at home. The government, too, sees merit in committing to UN peacekeeping as it validates India’s commitment to undertake international duties.
Critics, however, claim that top contributors – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Nepal, Egypt, Jordan, Rwanda and Ghana — are being unfair, putting their men to risk, attracted by compensation that the rich countries refund to them via the UN.
Protection of civilians is one of the principal mandates of UNMISS. India has the highest number in South Sudan, nearly a third out of the 7,000 soldiers, stationed to man vital installations in a land mass spread over 622,000 square km.
Besides two infantry battalions, a communication and signals unit and a field hospital, India will be committing an engineering company to this country in the next few days, officials said.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.