At least 32 UN peacekeepers from the Indian Army were injured in a blast on Tuesday in Goma, a northeastern town in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to reports. An eight-year-old girl was also killed in the explosion that occurred when the peacekeepers were exercising in the morning, the reports said.
The Associated Press quoted Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu province in DR Congo, to report that the blast was caused by an “unexplained grenade explosion”.
“32 Indian peacekeepers injured in outskirts of Himbi, Goma in a blast during morning PT. No injuries life threatening. All injured being provided due medical care,” the defence ministry’s additional directorate general of public information posted in a tweet.
“I am monitoring the situation personally. Our mission will ensure best possible treatment to the injured,” said external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in a tweet.
However, news agencies reported that the explosion led to casualties among the peacekeepers but did not identify their nationality. Reuters cited a local imam to report that three peacekeepers were killed while the Associated Press quoted Paluku to report that one peacekeeper died in the blast. Both the agencies confirmed the death of the unidentified girl in the city near the border with Rwanda.
In New Delhi, Press Trust of India quoted unnamed Army officials to report that the blast occurred at 6.15 am local time and that two of the 32 injured Indian soldiers required surgery but were not critical.
The report said that the injured soldiers were from Indian Battalion 1, which is part of a brigade of around 3,500 Indian soldiers posted in Congo on UN peacekeeping duty.
The Associated Press quoted Paluku as saying that officials were investigating whether the grenade belonged to the peacekeepers or whether it had come from some other source.
About 18,000 UN peacekeepers are posted in Congo, where millions died in regional conflicts between 1996-2003 and dozens of armed groups continue to operate. Various rebel groups are active in Congo’s northeast, though the most recent violence has occurred in the Beni region north of Goma.
A spokesman for DR Congo’s UN mission was not immediately available for comment.