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Vicious attacks on civilians force thousands to flee in eastern DR of Congo - UN

7 June 2005 Rampaging militiamen have staged a series of vicious attacks on scores of civilians in the past week, forcing more than 1,000 people to flee remote villages in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations said today.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in the village of Sonsa, a particularly virulent rampage by Mayi-Mayi elements active in the area prompted the flight of some 100 individuals to the town of Manono. During the attack, fifteen females – including 8 girls – were raped and forced to flee naked, able to move only at night due to their lack of clothing.

Wholesale looting took place and eleven of the village's 30 houses were burned to the ground and, OCHA said in a press release. The terrified displaced people arrived in Manono, Katanga, on 31 May.

OCHA say that more than 1,600 individuals fled their homes in the villages of Kyungu and Nkumbu to seek shelter in Mpiana, another town in the Manono region, for fear of attack by Mayi-Mayi active in the area. Although the group managed to bring some basic household goods with them, they no longer have any food.

Four villages may have been burnt after the internally displaced people (IDPs) left the area, OCHA said.

In the South Kivu town, Nindja, militia members killed 19 civilians on 23 May and prompted an estimated 6,000 people to flee to Ihembe, near Walungu. Among the seriously wounded, some had had their limbs hacked off by machetes.

Another group of villagers, estimated at up to 50, were carried off by armed men in an area where kidnapping of civilians for ransom happens often, OCHA said.

IDPs in six overcrowded camps in Ituri's Djugu and Irumu areas for the sixth month seemed unlikely to be able to return home in the near future, it said.

Should the security situation deteriorate further, the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to these camps could become problematic. A suspension in aid could leave more than 100,000 individuals, mostly women and children, without water, health care and food, the agency said.

The most recent wave of displacements of civilians in Ituri began late in December 2004, due to fighting in the Nyamamba area, it said.


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