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30 people killed last month by mutineers in Buramba, DR of Congo - UN mission

7 January 2005 At least 30 civilians died last month in revenge killings carried out by troops from the national army for three murders of fellow-soldiers in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations mission there said today.

According to an investigative team from the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), the group, including women and children, were killed in Buramba town in Katsshuru district by mutinous troops from the national Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) belonging to a battalion that was a former component of the rebel National Army of Congo (ANC).

The former ANC troops, now under a unified FARDC command, took reprisal on 17 December for the killing of three other ex-ANC soldiers earlier that day by FARDC soldiers formerly belonging to the Mayi Mayi militias of the Jackson group, MONUC said in a statement.

The ANC is said to identify with the Rwandan Government, while the Mayi-Mayi Jackson Group is said to be allied to Rwandan Hutu rebels in the DRC.

The ex-ANC troops secured Buramba and killed those of the 10,000 residents who could not flee, seeing them as supporters of the former Mayi-Mayi who had already left the town.

"The exact number of civilians killed in the reprisal could be higher since the ex-ANC troops reportedly burned bodies and killed other civilians in the hills overlooking Buramba," the statement said.

The investigation was hampered by former ANC troops who continued to pester and intimidate the civilian population, the Mission said, while local authorities said the dead were not executed, but had only been caught in cross-fire.

The MONUC team said it also heard an accusation that a 12-year-old girl was raped, but was unable to confirm this.

Referring to a Security Council resolution of last October increasing MONUC's deployment and adding 5,900 peacekeeping troops, Mission chief William Lacy Swing told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York that the new responsibilities and resources had brought the operation to a critical phase.

The National Transitional Government (NTG) has made significant progress but faced daunting challenges in a country that should be Africa's richest but instead had a gross national product of about $100, he said.

As an example of progress, he said it was dramatic that those Congolese who had been facing one another on the battlefield just 30 months ago were now working together in the NTG, he said.

A major challenge was to deal with the remaining presence of 10,000 to 15,000 foreign armed groups in the country, who were mainly Rwandan rebels, but also some Ugandan forces in the northeast, he said.

A new, fully integrated army had to be formed under a $200 million World Bank programme for demobilization and reintegration of former civil war combatants. Some 385,000 refugees had to be repatriated from the surrounding countries and 3.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) had to be re-settled within the country, he said.

De-mining programmes were among the country's priorities, with 2,000 deaths from landmines, he said.

Meanwhile in other news, Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert of the Netherlands, currently the UN Military Adviser in New York, was named MONUC's Division Commander in the eastern DRC.

He will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Randhir Kumar Mehta of India.

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