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UN forces return fire from militiamen in DR Congo

26 February 2004 United Nations peacekeeping forces investigating allegations that militia members were assembling in a village in an eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with a view to attacking a nearby town came under fire from militiamen in an ambush, the UN mission, MONUC, said today.

The UN brigade had been told that members of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC)/pro-Lubanga-Bosco's wing were gathering in Nyamamba, Ituri province, in order to attack Tchomia, 20 kilometres away, MONUC spokesman Hamadoun Toure said in his weekly press briefing.

At the end of the mission, the brigade was fired on by militiamen lying in an ambush, he said.

"The helicopters protecting the MONUC team immediately returned fire and completely destroyed the UPC camp," Mr. Toure said. "Apparently the militiamen suffered important losses which MONUC is unfortunately not in a position to assess."

The spokesman pledged that the UN would not be deterred by violence. "MONUC shall forcefully retaliate to fully implement its mandate now under Chapter VII of the UN Charter," he said, referring to the provision, which allows for the use of military power.

"We will refrain from putting civilians in danger," he added.

Another obstruction arose in Gbadolite, the town where the late DRC president, Mobutu Sese Seko, had his country house. A man identifying himself as a liaison officer, who was also a member of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), denied MONUC access to airplanes at Gbadolite airport on 21 and 23 February, Mr. Toure said.

In another development Commandant Joseph Kasongo, another militia leader, was arrested in Bukavu on a charge of having an illegal arms cache and flown to South Kivu yesterday. Mr. Kasongo, from the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma), was handed over to local military officials, Mr. Toure said.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the DRC, MONUC chief William Lacy Swing, held talks with senior Congolese officials to sort out the incident.

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