NEW DELHI (AFP) — India is sending Gurkha troops to join a UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo where rebel forces have tightened their grip on a key town, officials said.
The announcement Thursday came after New Delhi said it was "very concerned" over the safety of some 8,000 Indian troops in the UN mission in the DR Congo (MONUC) as continued clashes between rebels and government forces threatened a fragile ceasefire.
An Indian army spokesman told AFP that an entire battalion of 1,200 Gurkha soldiers would be sent to join MONUC "within the month."
"The Gurkhas would replace our sixth light infantry battalion in the DRC and the deployment would be completed within the month," the spokesman said in New Delhi.
The ministry said the Gurkhas had been specially trained.
"Keeping in view the volatile conditions in Congo, the unit has carried out extensive training and mission sensitization in Delhi for the past few months in all aspects of UN operations," it said in a statement.
Indian military sources said they were having increasing difficulties in supplying troops in the field with ammunition and rations because of the deteriorating situation.
MONUC comprises around 17,000 troops drawn from eight nations with India and Pakistan the largest contributors.
Last week, Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony said he was concerned over the safety of his troops in DR Congo, where three soldiers and an officer were injured in October after coming under rebel rocket attack.
MONUC troops are under orders to open fire on rebel forces if they advance on the strategic city of Goma in the country's east.
Rebels loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda have been positioned outside Goma since declaring a ceasefire a week ago after routing government forces in an offensive that has seen them take several towns in Nord-Kivu.
MONUC has only a few thousand troops in Nord-Kivu.
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