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UN operation in eastern DR of Congo aimed at bringing stability to region

11 March 2005 United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) carried out a cordon and search operation today in the Ituri district, located in the country's northeast and scene of recent clashes between militias who have also been attacking civilians.

Some 600 peacekeepers from the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), acting on information about the possible presence of militia members in the area, carried out a house-to-house search in the village but made no contact with any militias, found no arms or other military equipment and returned to base.

Ground troops from Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Nepal - supported by air transport from Bangladesh and gun-ships from India - were involved in the operation around the village of Penyi, about 30 kilometres northeast of Ituri's capital city of Bunia.

A UN spokesperson in New York said the operation was not a "one-off event" but a regular operation that is part of an ongoing campaign to disarm local militias who have been terrorizing local residents in Ituri, as well as fighting among themselves for control of the wealth in the area. More of these operations are expected, the spokesperson added.

Last week during a similar operation in the area, MONUC troops came under attack and returned fire, killing more than 50 militia fighters. That clash came after nine UN soldiers from Bangladesh were ambushed and murdered on 25 February - the worst-ever strike against the UN's forces in the DRC.

MONUC is one of the world body's largest peacekeeping missions, with almost 14,000 troops.

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