Hundreds of people were massacred at the weekend in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), near the southern tip of Lake Albert, a Ugandan army officer said on Sunday.
A DRC rebel official put the number of dead at more than 250, including about 20 babies.
|Ugandan troops withdrawal|
has left a power vacuum
Ugandan army Brigadier, Kale Kaihura, said fighters from Ituri's majority Lendu ethnic group attacked the rival Hemas in Kyomya, about 30 km from the Ugandan border. The attack occurred soon after the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from the area.
"What annoys me and frustrate some of us is that all this is happening after we forewarned the United Nations through MONUC (the UN military mission in DRC) that this situation was volatile and needed careful handling," Kaihura said.
Despite the warning, MONUC pressured the Ugandan army to exit without having in place an alternative security arrangement, he said.
Babies not spared
Bawunde Kisangani, the secretary general of the Party For the Unity and Safeguard of Integrity of Congo (PUSIC), a Hema group, said he had just visited the site of the killings.
"We counted 253 dead bodies at Kyomya killed by Lendu combatants. They included 20 babies," he said.
Kisangani said the attackers used machetes and rifles to kill their victims. They stormed a hospital, killing people they found there, he added. The attackers included fighters of another rebel group, the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement, as well as Congo's government troops.
Eighteen of the attackers - 12 Lendu fighters and six DRC soldiers - were killed during the counter-fighting that ensued, Kisangani said.
Hema groups in the Ituri region accuse the DRC government troops of siding with the Lendu. The Hema groups include the Union of Congolese Patriots, which controls the region's largest town, Bunia. It has close ties with PUSIC.
On Friday, the UN Security Council gave the green light for a heavily armed French-led international force to protect refugees from inter-ethnic massacres in Bunia.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in Ituri and about half-a-million displaced since 1999 in a long-running feud between the Lendu and Hema tribes.