The Chinese military has revealed details of this week’s tense stand-off between its peacekeepers and armed militants in South Sudan.
The incident reportedly occurred at the same location where two Chinese peacekeepers were killed during fighting in South Sudan 18 months ago.
Peacekeepers at the United Nations compound in the capital Juba were told armed militants had entered a restricted zone on Thursday afternoon, South China Morning Postreported in its Saturday edition.
“Fifteen militants carrying rifles and pistols were found in a restricted area … chasing civilians after two gunshots were heard at about 4pm,” the paper, quoting the official newspaper PLA Daily, said.
It also said Lt. Yang Yongqiang, one of 15 Chinese peacekeepers, rushed to the restricted zone where civilians are usually protected.
“I told the armed men that they were in a place where weapons are prohibited, but they became agitated and started firing shots into the sky,” Yang told the newspaper.
The situation reportedly worsened as more militants appeared in the restricted area and some of them – numbering about 30 at that stage – had their weapons allegedly aimed at the peacekeepers.
“This was a very tense stand-off and the armed group was extremely hostile. It would’ve been very easy for us to lose control of the situation,” Yang was quoted as saying.
According to the report, however, the peacekeepers negotiated with the militants, who agreed to lower their weapons and left the area.
South Sudan’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than two million people. Several ceasefire agreement signed by the warring parties have not held.
China, according to the United Nations, has more than 2,600 peacekeepers serving around the world with most of them serving military engineers and logistics staff, police and medical personnel.
At least 18 Chinese have reportedly died on peacekeeping missions, with half of them in Africa, from disease, traffic accidents, extreme weather and due to armed attacks.