Several people, including rangers, have been killed in an attack in Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In a statement on Friday, park authorities said a major assault by armed groups on Rumangabo village “resulted in substantial loss of life” including rangers, other employees and civilians.
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Cosma Wilungula, director of the Congo Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), was quoted as saying by Reuters News Agency that 16 people, including 12 rangers, were killed in the attack, with many others seriously wounded.
A security source cited by AFP news agency put the death toll at 13 rangers and five civilians.
“The guards were not the target and died while assisting the civilian vehicle that had been caught under fire from the attackers,” the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist attraction, said in the statement.
Expressing sadness over the attack, one of the deadliest to hit the park, the statement described it as a “devastating day for Virunga National Park and the surrounding communities”.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Wilungula said some 60 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) ambushed a convoy of civilians that was being protected by the rangers.
Commenting on the wider context of the attack, Phil Clark, of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told Al Jazeera: “FDLR is a Hutu-dominated rebel group. The reason it is fighting the Congolese army at the moment is because the Congolese government is in the process of renewing relations with the Rwandan government. And that is a Tutsi-dominated government.”
He added: “Rwanda wants Congo to deal with the FDLR, which they see as a Hutu threat across the border – killing Tutsi civilians inside Congo. The FDLR also has a history of going across the border into Rwanda.”
Virunga National Park is spread more than 7,800 square kilometres (3,011 square miles) over the borders of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. The park is home to a world-famous population of mountain gorillas but has been hit by rising instability and violence.
Inaugurated in 1925, the park has witnessed repeated attacks by rebel groups, militias and poachers.
Visits to the park have been suspended since March 19 for at least 30 days as part of the DRC’s efforts to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.
The park banned visitors between May 2018 and the start of last year after two British tourists were kidnapped there. They were later released but a ranger was killed during the abduction.
Three civilians killed as India, Pakistan trade fire in Kashmir
India and Pakistan both rule parts of Kashmir but claim it in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the Himalayan region [EPA] At least three civilians have been killed after Pakistan and India exchanged fire across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Kashmir region between…
India and Pakistan both rule parts of Kashmir but claim it in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the Himalayan region [EPA]
At least three civilians have been killed after Pakistan and India exchanged fire across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed Kashmir region between the two countries, Indian police said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared as both armies targeted civilian areas on Sunday with heavy artillery fire in violation of the 2003 ceasefire accord.
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Shri Ram Ambarkar, an Indian police officer, said three civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed when shells fired from the Pakistani army hit homes at two locations along the LoC in the Kupwara area of Indian-administered Kashmir.
Ambarkar said some people were also feared injured as authorities launched a rescue operation.
India and Pakistan both rule parts of Kashmir but claim it in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the Himalayan region.
Since Friday, Pakistan’s military has charged India with repeated violations of the ceasefire along the frontier.
A Pakistani army statement said heavy artillery fire by India “deliberately targeted civilians” on the Pakistani side of the border.
Indian Army troops resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation late last night along LOC and Working Boundary in Chirikot and Shakargarh Sectors deliberately targeting civilian population. Due to indiscriminate fire of mortars in Chirikot Sector along LOC … (1/2)
— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) April 12, 2020
The military said on Sunday that two people were seriously hurt overnight and had to be evacuated.
On Saturday, the Pakistani military said six people, including a child, were wounded when Indian soldiers launched a barrage of rockets and mortars into civilian areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India fighters and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side.
Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the fighters and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Dozens of civilians killed in Saudi-UAE-led air raids in Yemen
Yemen’s Houthi rebels say more than 30 civilians have been killed in air raids carried out by a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition, with the United Nations confirming the death toll as it deplored a “shocking” failure to protect the war-torn country’s unarmed population. Saturday’s air raids in northern al-Jawf province came hours after the Houthis said…
Yemen’s Houthi rebels say more than 30 civilians have been killed in air raids carried out by a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition, with the United Nations confirming the death toll as it deplored a “shocking” failure to protect the war-torn country’s unarmed population.
Saturday’s air raids in northern al-Jawf province came hours after the Houthis said they had shot down a Saudi fighter jet in the same area with an advanced surface-to-air missile.
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“Preliminary field reports indicate that … as many as 31 civilians were killed and 12 others injured in attacks that hit al-Hayjah area of al-Maslub district in al-Jawf governorate,” said a statement from the office of the UN resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.
The statement said “humanitarian partners” deployed rapid response teams to provide medical assistance to the wounded, many of whom were being transferred to hospitals in al-Jawf, as well as the capital, Sanaa.
The Houthis said women and children were among the dead and wounded in the air raids, while the Western-backed coalition fighting the rebels acknowledged the “possibility of collateral damage” during a “search and rescue operation” at the crash site of the Saudi plane.
A statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency did not specify the fate of the crew of the Tornado jet or the cause of its crash.
Commenting on the killing of the civilians, Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said: “So many people are being killed in Yemen – it’s a tragedy and it’s unjustified. Under international humanitarian law parties which resort to force are obligated to protect civilians.
“Five years into this conflict and belligerents are still failing to uphold this responsibility. It’s shocking.”
The Saudi-UAE-led military coalition intervened in Yemen’s conflict in 2015 in support of forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who had been forced out by the Houthis.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and created what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have purchased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom, and the coalition faces widespread criticism for the high civilian death toll of its bombing campaign.
Since its intervention in the war, nearly 20,500 air raids have been carried out in the country, according to data collected by the Yemen Data Project.
Airports, ports, bridges and roads have all been repeatedly attacked. So have farms, schools, oil and gas facilities, factories and private businesses.
‘Perpetrators held to account’
Saturday’s attack follows an surge in fighting in northern Yemen that threatens to worsen the war-battered country’s humanitarian crisis.
International aid group Save the Children condemned the air raids, saying they showed that the conflict in Yemen was “not slowing down”.
“This latest attack must be urgently and independently investigated, and perpetrators held to account,” said Xavier Joubert, the charity’s country director in Yemen, calling for halting arms sales to the warring parties.
“Those who continue to sell arms to the warring parties must realise that by supplying weapons for this war, they contribute to making atrocities like today’s all too common.”
Meanwhile, the downing of a fighter jet would mark a setback for a military coalition known for its air superiority and suggest the Houthis’ increasingly potent arsenal.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said it would be a “very significant” development in Yemen’s long-running war if it was confirmed that the Houthis had shot down the jet.
“If they would have such a capability of missile batteries or land-to-air capacity against the Saudi air force, that would be a game-changer,” he said.
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