Two Indian peacekeepers were among 22 people killed when about 2,000 rebels ransacked a temporary UN base in South Sudan's troubled Jonglei state, the second such incident in eight months in which Indian soldiers have died in the world's newest country.
The two Indian peacekeepers were killed while "defending the base against the assailants", the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement.
A third Indian peacekeeper was wounded in the chest during the attack and has been flown by aircraft to Malakal, where he is reported to be in stable condition, it added.
The remains of the deceased soldiers were airlifted from Akobo to the UNMISS compound in Malakal in neighboring Upper Nile State and arrived in Juba this afternoon.
"At least 20 of the civilians who sought refuge inside the base were killed during the attack," the statement said.
All UN personnel who remained overnight in Akobo have been airlifted to Malakal in four UNMISS helicopters along with seven South Sudanese civilians and a dozen staff members of non-governmental organizations, it added.
After the incident, additional troops were moved towards the area to extricate the remaining Indian soldiers from there, Indian Army headquarters in Delhi said.
Earlier, Indian Ambassador to the UN Asoke Mukerji had told a UN meeting that three Indian troops had died there but later it was clarified that there were only two casualties.
Subedar K P Singh (Army Medical Corps) from Bhondsi in Gurgaon and Subedar Dharmesh Sangwan (2 Rajputana Rifles) from Charkhi Dadri in Haryana are the two Junior Commissioned Officers who lost their lives in the incident.
"I deplore this unjustified and unwarranted attack on the United Nations Mission base in Akobo, killing peacekeepers that were here to protect civilians and serve the people of South Sudan. It is a criminal act for which the responsible must be held accountable. Such attacks will not deter us from continuing to discharge our mandate," said Hilde F Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary General.
Operations are underway to evacuate 40 peacekeepers from a base in the Jonglei state town of Yuai this afternoon.
Mukerji told PTI that about 1500-2000 people made a forced entry early in the morning yesterday into the UNMISS base at Akobo, which at the time had 43 Indian soldiers, six political UN officers and 12 civilian staff.
About 30 South Sudanese people had sought shelter at the base from the turmoil plaguing areas of Akobo County.
The ethnic Lou Nuer youths asked the Indian soldiers to hand over the South Sudanese people but the Indian soldiers refused. The rebels then started shooting indiscriminately and killed two Indian soldiers.