Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dozens killed in DRC military offensive


May 03 2007 at 12:19AM

Kinshasa - At least 42 Rwandan Hutu rebels and four government soldiers have been killed in a crackdown by the Democratic Republic of Congo's military in the strife-torn east, the UN said on Wednesday.

The FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebel group) have lost at least 42 men, while four DR Congo soldiers have died in a combat zone north of the eastern town of Goma, it said.

The United Nations, which released casualty figures provided by the army, is not taking part in the operation, which is being carried out by soldiers and former rebels.

DRC soldiers began the offensive in North Kivu last week, deploying six battalions, or about 3 500 men, to secure two arterial roads linking the town of Goma, the regional capital, and Ishasha on the Ugandan border.

The violence has prompted hundreds to flee their homes

On April 16, suspected FDLR rebels attacked a minibus on the road between Goma and Ishasha, killing a student. Three days earlier, they exchanged gunfire with DRC soldiers on the same road.

The violence has prompted hundreds to flee their homes.

Gabriel de Brosses, a spokesperson for the UN force in Congo (MONUC), said about 890 people had been displaced by the latest fighting.

Andrew Zadel, of the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), said it was "very difficult to have a clear idea of population movements in the war zone as humanitarian workers lack access."

He said that more than 113 000 people had been displaced since the start of the year in the province of North Kivu, of which Goma is the capital.

Rwandan Hutu fighters, estimated to be about 10,000-strong by the United Nations, are still present in eastern DR Congo.

They led 14 attacks in April in the Walungu and Kabare areas, according to Kemal Saiki, a MONUC spokesperson.

Another 72 people were kidnapped and several rapes were reported.

Some of the rebels are accused of having participated in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. About 800 000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were killed within six weeks in Rwanda by members of the Hutu ethnic group. - Sapa-AFP


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