Two Irish army officers evacuated from DR Congo over ‘security concerns’

Two members of the Irish Defense Forces have been withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo over what has been described as “security concerns”.

Two Irish officers, a man and a woman, have been successfully removed from the state in the past 24 hours, with the help of the Air Corps and input from unnamed ‘international partners’.

The armed forces have three armed officers who work as staff officers at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO Force in the DRC city of Goma, the capital of the northeastern province.

Ireland has deployed unarmed personnel as part of the UN mission in Congo since 2001, while armed personnel were moved to Goma in 2013.

Until yesterday afternoon, two armed officers were present at the mission in Goma, while another officer was on leave in Ireland and his planned return to Congo has been suspended.

A spokesman for the armed forces said Defense Secretary Simon Coveney had been made aware of the volatile situation on the ground earlier this week and that he had been made aware of the threat posed to Irish officers as a result.

“Following the recent civil unrest in and around Goma (DRC) that led to several killings, including UN personnel, the minister received military advice on foot from which he concluded that the risk of such a small deployment could not be mitigated under the current circumstances. sustained. Although the civil unrest appears to have abated, the minister agreed to use this quieter period to withdraw the officers from the mission area,” a spokesman for the armed forces said.

“Air Corps assets were used to transport personnel and equipment from Goma (DRC) to Entebbe (Uganda), personnel will be sent home from Entebbe by commercial airlines and the Air Corps will transport the equipment home.”

The evacuation was scheduled for Thursday but was later postponed yesterday due to a delay in “receiving diplomatic clearances for flights”.

The armed forces have confirmed that Secretary of State Coveney has maintained “close personal contact” with the planning arrangements at all times, “as the safety and security of staff were his primary concern”.

The Armed Forces spokesperson added: “He [Minister Coveney] recognizes the significant and collaborative work undertaken by the Department of Defense and military officials in recent weeks, supported by the State Department. The UN had been informed of this personnel withdrawal. This withdrawal will allow for a period of reflection on our continued participation in the mission.

“The Minister would like to express his gratitude to other countries contributing troops to MONUSCO who have provided practical support to the two Irish officers.”

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