U.N. chopper crashes in eastern Congo, 8 peacekeepers killed, army blames rebels

Eight peacekeepers were killed when a U.N. helicopter crashed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday amid rebel fighting, the United Nations said.

The bodies of the peacekeepers have been taken to Goma and an investigation was underway into the circumstances of the crash, the United Nations said in a statement.

They included six crew members from the Pakistani military and two military personnel - one from Russia and one from Serbia, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, said in a statement.

Pakistan's army said that all eight people had died, and gave the names of the pilot and crew. Pakistan has deployed an aviation unit to the U.N. mission in Congo since 2011, it said.

The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission when it went down in the area of Tshanzu, in North Kivu province, where there have been clashes this week between the Congolese army and a rebel group known as the M23, MONUSCO said.

Congo's army said the helicopter was shot down by rebels, which the M23's spokesman denied. MONUSCO did not state the cause of the crash and said investigations were underway.

The M23 group was driven out of Congo after an insurgency in 2012 and 2013 and chased into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. Its fighters have since come back to wage attacks, including one in the same part of Congo in November

By Reuters