U.N peacekeepers carry a coffin with the remains of a Tanzanian peacekeeper killed by rebels, during a memorial ceremony in Beni, eastern Congo. Picture: AP Photo/Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro

Johannesburg - The United Nations Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), David Gressly, has paid tribute to the courage, bravery and professionalism of the 14 Tanzanian UN peacekeepers killed during an attack on the UN base in Semiliki in the DRC on December 7.

Referring to the attack, which was one of the worst on "blue helmets" in recent history, Gressly encouraged the mission's military, police and civilian staff to continue their efforts to implement the operation's mandate, including the protection of civilians, during a Monday ceremony in the north-east city of Beni.

“We are determined to continue our work,” the Deputy Special Representative stressed.

“What is important now is to stay engaged to protect civilians, especially towards Kamango,” Gressly told UN Radio Okapi.

The bodies of the 14 blue helmets were repatriated to Tanzania late Monday where they were ceremoniously received in Dar es Salaam by Tanzanian defence and military officials.

In the wake of the incident, Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN Security Council condemned the deadly attack, with the UN chief expressing his “outrage and utter heartbreak”.

“These deliberate attacks against United Nations peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime,” said Guterres, urging the DRC authorities to investigate the incident and quickly bring the perpetrators to justice.

“There must be no impunity for such aggression, here or anywhere else,” he added.

Late last Thursday night, a UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) Company Operating Base at Semuliki in Beni territory, in DRC's restive North Kivu province, was attacked by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements, resulting in protracted fighting between the suspected armed group elements and MONUSCO and Armed Forces of the DRC, known by the French acronym, FARDC.

According to the UN Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC), MONUSCO said on Sunday that 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed, 44 others wounded, while one peacekeeper remains missing.