INSIDE ACCOUNT: What went wrong with the Indian Army contingent in South Sudan


Article as appeared in the Mail Today on December 23, 2013
Article as appeared in the Mail Today on December 23, 2013

A day after the killing of two Indian Army Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) in South Sudan’s Jonglei province, newer details surrounding the camp attack have emerged which have painted a rather disturbing picture of not just the specific attack per se but the intensity of the civil war which is tearing up the world’s newest nation.

According to sources in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), a complete post-event assessment has revealed the attack on Akobo camp of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was a devastating one. So much so that the Indian Army detachment in Akobo had to not only implement a temporary pull out and withdraw from the Akobo base but has also lost ‘heavy equipment’ which generally refers to weapons like mortars, heavy machine guns and rocket launchers and suffered damages to own weapons.

The internal assessment has revealed that a mob of nearly 2000 people attacked the Akobo camp as a fallout to the UNMISS & Indian Army sheltering 36 members of the Dinka tribe yesterday, in keeping with the mandate of the mission. In the ensuing attack, the 36-member detachment of the Indian Army, which had sought reinforcement was overwhelmed by the mob which swamped the camp.

“A helicopter had indeed been activated which had onboard one officer and six men to reinforce Akobo. And at Akobo a BMP (infantry combat vehicle) was launched to secure the helipad for landing and simultaneously the mob attacked. Many of them even had weapons on them,” said a source.

It was also revealed that the mob, which was seeking the 36 Dinka tribe members, fired at the shelter-seekers and ransacked the camp. “These members who attacked us were largely from the Lou Neur tribe and they were successful in dragging away the Dinka tribesmen out of the camp,” added the source.

At the end of the attack, Subedar Dharmesh Sangwan (8 Rajputana Rifles) and Subedar Kumar Pal Singh (Army Medical Corps) were dead and Naik Sahabul Mandal was left seriously injured. In addition it was told that troops still trapped in Dinka were being evacuated by helicopters and being moved to Malakal. “A search will be carried out soon with the local army unit there to ascertain our losses,” it was mentioned.

The mortal remains of the dead JCOs, both of whom belong to Haryana had reached Juba by the time of this publication. Additionally, it was being planned that their mortal remains would be flown into Delhi by December 22.

What is fuelling the violence?

The failed coup of December 16 attempted by the ex-Vice President Riek Machar (belonging to the Lou Nuer tribe) against the current President Salva Kiir (from the Dinka tribe) has effectively caused a split in the South Sudanese Army which has dealt a severe blow to efforts at restoring peace amidst growing ethnic killings. Unrest has been reported from 14 sites inside the country and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) too has convened an emergency meeting. Firing was reported in cities of Juba, Bor and Pibor as a result.

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