UN peacekeeper killed in South Sudan aid convoy ambush

A Bangladeshi peacekeeper in South Sudan was killed on Tuesday, June 26 when an aid convoy was ambushed in the west of the country, the United Nations mission said.

“Lieutenant Commander Ashraf Siddiqui, was part of a convoy led by Nepalese peacekeepers providing protection to humanitarian workers travelling from Yei to Lasu when several shots were fired at the group by unknown gunmen,” the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement.

The victim “was hit and died from his injuries shortly afterwards,” it added.

The U.N. said its peacekeepers “immediately returned fire and the assailants retreated into the forest.”

“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,” David Shearer, head of the 13,000-troop force, said.

The attack occurred in the same contested area where 10 South Sudanese aid workers were briefly abducted by rebels in April.

UNMISS has lost 56 personnel since its deployment began in 2011.

South Sudan has fought for decades for self-determination, but after independence in 2011, an ethnic power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to all out civil war in 2013.

Initially pitting Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group against Machar’s Nuer, South Sudan’s conflict has expanded, drawing in a variety of ethnic groups and grievances.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions more uprooted or pushed to the brink of starvation in a conflict characterised by mass rape and the killing of civilians. Aid workers and peacekeepers have frequently been targeted.

A peace deal was signed in 2015 but collapsed in July 2016 when fresh fighting in the capital Juba forced then first vice president Machar into exile. The opposition split, with Taban Deng taking over as first vice president, while Machar’s faction returned to battling the government in the bush.

Kiir and Machar are this week meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, in the latest regional effort to end the fighting, after a meeting between the two last week in Ethiopia failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The talks between the bitter rivals come as East African leaders launched new efforts to secure peace in South Sudan, where warring factions face a looming deadline to avert U.N. sanctions.

While the faltered first round held Thursday in Addis Ababa was brokered by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed, Monday’s meeting in Khartoum was hosted by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in the presence of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

With reporting from AFP

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