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French Troops Clash With Congo Rebels
VOA News
14 Jun 2003, 11:57 UTC

French peacekeeping troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo returned fire after coming under attack Saturday, by rebel militiamen. It is not clear which militia group launched the attack outside the northeastern town of Bunia.

A VOA reporter with the French troops says their convoy came under machine gun and mortar fire. The French responded with machine guns and grenades, he says, in a battle that lasted about 15 minutes. There have been no reports of casualties among the French troops or the rebel militias.

The French deployed troops and armor in Bunia on Friday to protect civilians from fighting between rival ethnic Hema and Lendu militias. Saturday's incident was the first time that members of the multinational peacekeeping force in Congo have felt it necessary to open fire, About 400 French troops arrived in Bunia over the past week, part of a 1,400-strong international force ordered in by the United Nations. Hundreds of civilians have died in Bunia during the past month, and tens of thousands of others have been forced to leave their homes.

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