Eight Guatemalan Special Forces soldiers serving with the United Nations were killed and another five wounded, during fighting in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The peacekeepers were carrying out operations against the notorious Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army, when they were attacked.
The Guatemalan Special Forces soldiers were attacked while attempting to pinpoint the location of Lord's Resistance Army rebels. The group has committed atrocities in Uganda and its leadership is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
A four-hour pitched battle ensued, with the United Nations sending in attack helicopters to fire rockets at the rebels. A spokesman for the U.N. mission confirmed they had killed at least 15 of the rebels. He added that most of the group of between 50 and 60 had been killed or wounded.
The LRA has waged a 20-year war, terrorizing communities on both sides of Uganda's border with Sudan. But several hundred members of the rebel group crossed into the neighboring Congo late last year, prompting calls for action by Uganda's government.
Eastern Congo is already home to a number of Congolese, Ugandan and Rwandan rebel groups, whose activities in the past been used as justification for military intervention by Kigali and Kampala.
The United Nations said Vincent Otti, the LRA's deputy commander, had previously been in Congo, but it is not yet clear whether he was there when the fighting took place.
Senegalese soldiers have been flown in by helicopter to reinforce the Guatemalan soldiers and ensure the LRA does not regroup.
With about 17,000 blue helmets, the Congo is home to the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission. But they are stretched across a vast country, where there is virtually no infrastructure, the government's influence is limited, and gunmen continue to roam.