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Six Pakistani Troops, One Russian, One Serb Killed In Helicopter Crash In DR Congo

The helicopter was among two carrying out reconnaissance for the UN mission in Congo. (file photo)

Eight UN peacekeepers -- six Pakistanis, a Russian, and a Serb -- were killed when their helicopter crashed while on a mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), UN and Pakistani officials said on March 29.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed the deaths and gave the nationality of all eight victims.

The Pakistani military said the helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission and the exact cause of the crash had not yet been determined. It added that six Pakistani troops were among those killed.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his "deep sense of shock and grief," his office said, paying tribute to the peace effort by the country's armed forces.

DRC military authorities said M23 rebels had "shot down" the aircraft. But the group denied the accusation, claiming the Congolese military was responsible for the crash.

The UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) said earlier that it had "lost contact" with one of its helicopters while it was on a reconnaissance mission in the Rutshuru region of North Kivu Province, where Congolese forces have been battling M23 rebels.

The helicopter was among two carrying out the UN mission, according to a statement from the DRC’s army, which said the helicopter was shot down on March 28.

The mission was to assess the movements of communities that had been attacked by rebels in order to coordinate humanitarian assistance.

The DRC army has accused Rwanda of supporting an armed rebellion in the east of the country. Kigali denies the charges, and M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma said in a video message that the movement was strictly Congolese and did not receive any assistance from neighboring countries.

A spokesperson for the North Kivu governor said in a statement on March 28 that the M23 "backed by the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF), carried out incursions and attacked positions" of the army the previous night.

To support the accusation, General Sylvain Ekenge said two Rwandan soldiers had been arrested during the attacks. Rwanda’s ambassador to the DRC said the two men were arrested more than a month ago and were not the soldiers named.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP