UNMISS and government officials laid wreaths on the coffins of Warrant Officers Dharmesh Sangwan and Kumar Pal Singh amid military salutes and mourners observed two minutes of silence.
“These gallant soldiers lost their lives while protecting … civilians and negotiating their safety,” UNMISS Force Commander Maj. Gen. Delali Sakyi told the gathering. “They were caught up in fire targeted at … civilians.”
He stressed that the soldiers’ aim to bring peace, stability and a better future to South Sudan would linger on, and that their commitment to the UN would not be forgotten.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General Hilde F. Johnson noted that the two soldiers were helping to protect 36 civilians, when they were attacked by about 2,000 armed youths.
“(The youths) opened fire and attacked … from all directions ….with the apparent intention of killing the civilians taking shelter there,” Ms. Johnson said.
Condemning ongoing violence in Akobo and other parts of the country, the SRSG paid tribute to all South Sudanese who had lost their lives in the current crisis. “Our hearts and minds go to their families and loved ones.”
She said the mission’s mandate would not end with the attack. “This horrendous act, which we hope is an isolated incident, will not stop us from carrying out our work.”
Indian Ambassador to South Sudan Parmod Bajaj said the incident had “shocked and stunned” all. “These young Indian soldiers who were barely 30 and 40 years old had their whole lives in front of them … (which) have been cut short in this mindless attack.”
He added that India, the largest provider of UN peacekeeping troops, had lost seven soldiers while performing their duties in South Sudan.
“I request the UN and government … to thoroughly investigate this incident,” Ambassador Bajaj said. “Those responsible for this dastardly act should be held accountable and brought to justice.”
Acknowledging India’s contribution to UNMISS, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Barnaba Marial Benjamin said he deeply regretted the “irresponsible and cowardly act” that led to the soldiers’ deaths.
“Compensation for these two officers will be peace and freedom in … South Sudan,” Minister Benjamin said, pledging that the country would investigate the killings and bring the perpetrators to justice.
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