|Rape is frequently reported in eastern Congo and blamed on a range of armed movements, including the army [EPA]
Seven soldiers and a commander in the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been arrested over allegations that they were involved in a mass rape, according to the United Nations.
Fifty women have told the UN that they were raped in the eastern town of Fizi on the night of January 1 this year.
Madnodge Mounoubai, a spokesman for MONUSCO, the UN mission in DRC, said the atrocities had been committed after a drunken soldier got into a dispute.
"A soldier in a bar got somehow drunk and he fired and shot at a civilian," he told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
"He [the civilian] was taken to the hospital. The people thought that he was dead, so they turned against this soldier and actually they killed him.
"After he got killed, his colleagues heard that he was killed and they came and went on a rampage in the village. They started to loot the village, to loot the stores and to rape the women."
A spokesperson for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Southern Kivu said the women had been restrained by ropes or beaten with rifle butts before being attacked - some of them in front of their children.
Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware has been identified by some victims and witnesses as the commander of the soldiers who allegedly committed the mass rape.
The UN said the number of victims could rise as more villagers return from the bush to which they fled after the alleged rapes.
Major Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for the Congolese army, put the number of rapes at 14 and said that eight personnel had been disciplined, including a major.
Rape is frequently reported in eastern Congo and blamed on a range of armed movements, including Congo's regular army.
Amnesty International said the events in Fizi "are another telling example of the consequences of the virtual impunity the Congolese forces benefit from.
"The failure to hold the Congolese army to account when they fail to carry out their protection role or commit crimes themselves in turn encourages further violations."
The rights group said it welcomed the arrests, as well as investigations by South Kivu's military
"More often than not investigations in the DRC are never brought to a conclusion. A recent example of this is the investigation into the mass rapes that occurred in Walikale, North Kivu, in August 2010 which have now stalled," Amnesty said.
Mutware was identified as a former commander in the Tutsi-led CNDP rebel movement that swept across large swaths of eastern Congo at the end of 2008 until a peace agreement was signed in January 2009.
The rebels were speedily integrated into a national army that has become a conglomeration of numerous rebel groups and militias along with mutinous soldiers.
Congo endured back-to-back civil and regional wars that erupted in the aftermath of neighbouring Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies