Eight U.N. peacekeepers were killed in clashes with militias near the east Congolese town of Beni, United Nations and diplomatic sources have confirmed.
The latest incident continues to hamper peacekeeping efforts in the region that is at the center of the country’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic.
One Tanzanian and seven Malawian peacekeepers were killed during the clashes.
“Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania who are part of the UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC … were killed yesterday, in Beni territory, in North Kivu,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters initially in New York.
The deaths mark the biggest loss by the large UN force in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the rebels killed 15 troops nearly a year ago.
East Congo has been plagued by banditry and armed insurrections for more than two decades since the fall of former military ruler Mobutu Sese Seko, but the past year has seen a surge in violence around North Kivu.
Beni and the surrounding villages are also suffering an Ebola epidemic that has infected over 300 people and killed two thirds of them.
Constant armed attacks by at least two rebel groups in the region are hampering international efforts to contain the virus, by preventing medical workers from gaining access to Ebola victims.