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UN peacekeeping patrols seize weapons in eastern DR of Congo

17 March 2005 United Nations peacekeepers seized weapons and ammunition in the northeastern Ituri region as they, backed by helicopter gun ships, conducted their regular cordon and search operations designed to force militias to flee, or reduce "their capacity for nuisance," the mission said today.

About 500 peacekeepers from four companies, comprising troops from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, South African, Moroccan and Nepalese contingents, carried out Operation Djugu VI yesterday near the town of Zumbe in Zumbe district. No contact occurred between the forces of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and militiamen, but weapons and ammunition were discovered and seized, it said.

Zumbe is the suspected headquarters of the Nationalist Integrationist Front (FNI) militia, dominated by ethnic Lendu fighters.

Djugu is one of the five administrative territories of the Ituri district. Since last December it has been the scene of looting and extortion against civilians as clashes between Lendu and Hema militias over land worsened, forcing some 80,000 civilians to flee their homes.

According to a MONUC report last year, departing Belgian colonists, who had leased land from Lendu traditional chiefs in Ituri, left it during political upheavals in 1973 in the care of Hema managers. The managers began illegally and secretly to register the land in their own names, especially when a Hema, Zbo Kalogi, became Minister of Agriculture, the report said.

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