UPC gunmen pass by a French
tank in Bunia

General Jean-Paul Thonier, the commander of the UN-mandated and EU-led force to secure Bunia town and airport, gave “72 hours for the withdrawal of all armed forces from Bunia”, according to a force spokesman.

 

The deadline is on Tuesday at 0800 GMT, according to the spokesman, Colonel Gerard Dubois.

 

It was issued during a meeting between Thonier and Thomas Lubanga, the head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which is now in control of Bunia.

 

Lubanga agreed to the deadline and told reporters he had already begun withdrawing his fighters from the town.

 

Dubois said that any “visible” arms found after the deadline

would be “confiscated”.

 

An exception would be made only for guards at Lubanga’s headquarters, the spokesman said.

 

UPC gunmen began conducting armed patrols earlier this week, saying they were “military police”.

 

Inter-ethnic violence has claimed hundreds of lives in recent weeks in the Congo.

 

The multinational force deployed in Bunia in early June. Most of its 700 troops are French.

 

There are several hundreds more at Entebbe international airport in neighbouring Uganda.

 

Meanwhile, two UN military observers who were kidnapped on Thursday from a town in the country’s strife-torn Nord-Kivu province have been found unharmed.