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SLUG: 2-324851 Congo Killings (L-O)









HEADLINE: Gunmen kill 18, Kidnap Up to 50 in eastern Congo Village Attack

INTRO: Gunmen have killed 18 people, injured a dozen more and kidnapped up to 50 others in a raid on a village in eastern Congo. The incident took place late Monday in rugged terrain where Rwandan Hutu rebels and bands of Congolese gunmen still roam. As David Lewis reports from Kinshasa, the United Nations says it will investigate the attack and act accordingly.

TEXT: An unknown number of gunmen attacked a group of villages Monday 80-kilometers west of the Congolese town of Bukavu, killing 18 people, injuring more than a dozen more and taking off with about 50 hostages, local authorities have said.

Villagers who survived the attack told the United Nations attackers opened fire on them and hacked off hands and feet with machetes before making off with hostages into the steep hills and thick forests of eastern Congo.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but the provincial governor said survivors blamed Rwandan Hutu rebels and a band of gunmen called Rastas, who are linked to the Rwandan rebels, but also include Congolese elements.

Aid workers in Bukavu, the lakeside capital of South Kivu, said that an unknown number of civilians had panicked and started to flee from Ninja, the collection of villages that the attack took place in.

The peacekeeping mission in Congo - the world's largest - condemned the attack and said that it would investigate the incident further before taking further action.

But a spokesman said that the United Nations would not risk the lives of peacekeepers until it had more information on the attack.

Congo's five-year war officially ended two-years ago, but much of the east remains out of the Kinshasa government's control and the U.N. force is spread thinly across rugged terrain where armed groups roam, loot villages, and plague civilians.

The U.N. mission has often been criticized in the past for not doing enough protect civilians but during recent months has taken a harder stance in the northeast of the country and promised to do the same elsewhere.

While the logistical challenges of carrying out military operations in the thick forests and steep hills are daunting, analysts say that there is also a concern that any such operation might destabilize recent promises made by the Rwandan Hutu rebels to disarm and return home peacefully. (SIGNED)


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