JUBA, South Sudan -- Five United Nations peacekeepers from India, and at least seven civilians, were killed Tuesday when armed rebels opened fire on a convoy in South Sudan.
South Sudan's military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, blamed the attack on fighters led by David Yau Yau, a Sudan-backed rebel leader South Sudan's military has battled for months.
The top U.N. envoy in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, said in a statement that five peacekeepers and seven civilians working with the U.N. mission were killed. She said at least nine additional peacekeepers and civilians were injured and some remain unaccounted for.
Aguer said the attack took place on a convoy traveling between the South Sudanese towns of Pibor and Bor on Tuesday morning.
"Definitely this attack was carried out by David Yau Yau's militia," Aguer said. "They have been launching ambushes even on the SPLA for about six months now," he said, using the acronym for South Sudan's military.
South Sudan ended decades of civil war with Sudan in 2005 and peacefully formed its own country in 2011. But the south is still plagued by internal violence and shaky relations with Sudan. Leaders in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, deny that they are arming Yau Yau.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman of India's Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, India, said the convoy, which included 32 Indian soldiers, was attacked by rebels in Gurmukh in the volatile state of Jonglei. He said the casualties are being brought to the capital of South Sudan, Juba, and the injured will be sent to the U.N. mission hospital. The Indian embassy will work with the U.N. to bring the bodies back to India, he said.
India has about 2,200 Indian army personnel in South Sudan. They are in two battalions. One is based in Jonglei and the other is in Malakal, in the Upper Nile, on the border with Sudan.
The Indian embassy said it will inform families before releasing the names of the soldiers killed.
The top U.N. envoy in South Sudan, Johnson, sent condolences to the families of the dead and injured.