"The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the attack on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Akobo, Jonglei State by armed elements," a statement issued by Ban's spokesperson said, adding that the Secretary-General reiterates his call for all parties to exercise restraint and to cease hostilities.

Ban also expressed his condolences to the families of the two Indian peacekeepers and the Government of India.
    
The 15-nation UN Security Council expressed its condolences to the families of the Indian peacekeepers killed in the attack, and called on the Government of South Sudan to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
    
"They also stressed that intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission deployed in accordance with the Charter of the UN, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict, may amount to a crime under international law," Security Council President French Ambassdor Gerard Araud said in a press statement.

Special Representative of the Secretary General, Hilde Johnson, said he deplores the "unjustified and unwarranted" attack on the United Nations mission base.

"It is a criminal act for which the responsible must be held accountable. Such attacks will not deter us from continuing to discharge our mandate," Johnson said.
    
Members of the Security Council expressed grave alarm and concern regarding the rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan resulting from the political dispute among the country's political leaders, which threatens serious implications for the long-term security and stability of South Sudan as well as for the neighbouring countries.
    
The Security Council called on President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar to demonstrate leadership in bringing a swift and peaceful resolution to this crisis by calling for a cessation of hostilities and immediately commencing a dialogue.

In the December 19 attack, two Indian peacekeepers were killed and another was injured while defending the base in Akobo against the assailants.

During the attack, an estimated 2,000 armed youths believed to be of Lou Nuer ethnicity surrounded the UNMISS base in Akobo and opened fire in the direction of South Sudanese civilians of Dinka ethnic origin who had sought refuge inside the compound earlier.
    
While trying to open negotiations with the assailants, the 43 Indian peacekeepers stationed inside the compound came under ‘sustained attack’.
    
After taking over the base, the assailants seized weapons, ammunition and other supplies. However, a coordinated action involving soldiers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Indian peacekeepers was able to re-establish control over the Mission's base.

Two Indian peacekeepers were killed and another was injured while defending the base against the assailants and protecting civilians. The injured peacekeeper was wounded in the chest during the attack and has been flown by UNMISS aircraft to Malakal, where he is reported to be in a stable condition.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, told reporters that the Indian peacekeepers did what they could but they were not enough to repel 2,000 armed attackers.
    
"For 43 Indian peacekeepers, to be able to defend... against so large an onslaught was simply not possible," Haq said, adding that the base has now been emptied.
    
UNMISS condemned in the "strongest possible terms the unprovoked attack" on its base, and said the "senseless" act of violence must be punished and the mission would support all efforts to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice.

India is one of the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions with 1,50,000 soldiers deployed at various peacekeeping missions.

(Agencies)

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