DODOMA, Tanzania (AP) — The bodies of 15 United Nations peacekeepers killed last week in eastern Congo arrived home in Tanzania on Monday, as a U.N. official vowed military offenses will be launched against rebels who carried out the attack.
The bodies were received in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam by Tanzanian defense and military officials. The killings shocked many in this East African country that is known for its relative stability in a region often wracked by violence.
In a memorial ceremony Monday David Gressly, the U.N. deputy special representative for Congo, said those who staged the assault, which wounded 50 others, will pay for their actions.
The Dec. 7 attack about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Beni was the deadliest single attack on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in nearly 25 years.
At least five Congolese soldiers also were killed in the attack. The peacekeeping base has been repeatedly attacked by rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces group.
Tanzania's ambassador in Congo, Paul Ignace Mella, called on the U.N. to protect its peacekeeping soldiers. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is the largest in the world.
The U.N.'s top official for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will travel to Congo to attend a memorial ceremony Thursday to honor the slain peacekeepers. Later Lacroix will head to Tanzania "to personally convey to the people and government of Tanzania the U.N.'s deep gratitude for the sacrifices of their men and women," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York Monday.
Congo, the size of Western Europe, has seen immeasurable cruelty and greed as a result of its mineral resources while more than 80 percent of the population lives below the absolute poverty line of $1.25 a day. The nation suffered through one of the most brutal colonial reigns ever known before enduring decades of corrupt dictatorship. Back-to-back civil wars later drew in a number of neighboring countries.
Many rebel groups have come and gone during the U.N. mission's years of operation, at times invading the regional capital, Goma.
Maliro contributed from Beni, Congo.