Niemba ambush

The Niemba ambush took place on 8 November 1960,[1] when an Irish Army patrol in Congo-Léopoldville was ambushed, the first time the Irish Army was embroiled in battle since the 1922-23 Irish Civil War. Ireland had deployed troops as United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) peacekeepers.

Niemba ambush
Part of the Congo Crisis
Niemba ambush is located in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Niemba ambush (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Date8 November 1960
Result Luba victory

United Nations ONUC

Luba militia
Commanders and leaders
Republic of Ireland Kevin Gleeson  Unknown
11 men ~100 men
Casualties and losses
  • 9 killed
  • 1 wounded
  • 25 killed
  • Unknown wounded

The notoriety of the attack, and the allegations of mutilation and cannibalism that circulated in the Irish popular press in its aftermath, led to the word "baluba" (sometimes spelled "balooba") becoming a synonym for any "untrustworthy and barbaric" individual in certain parts of Ireland.[2]

However, the ambush was largely the result of mistaken identity. The Luba tribesmen seem to have mistaken the Irish UN troops for European mercenaries in the service of the State of Katanga, with whom they had recently been in conflict, the Baluba being opposed to Katangese secession. The Irish were part of a UN contingent that was sent to halt the Katangese secession from the Congo.[3]

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