UN troops target of Congo rebels

United Nations peacekeepers are set to be deployed in a further three villages in the strife-torn Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, after the blue-helmets set up a permanent presence near the site of a massacre of 65 people.

    UN soldiers have come under fire from suspected rebels

    The first deployment happened on Friday, when troops moved into Bule, a village located some 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Bunia, the capital of the northeast Ituri province.

    Ituri has seen a number of violent clashed between Lendu and Hema ethnic militias. Some 50,000 people have been killed in fighting since 1999, AFP reported.

    Bule is 5km from Kachele where 65 people, thought to be from the minority Hema tribe, were massacred on 6 October.
    “The permanent deployment began Friday” with the dispatch of some 175 troops to Bule, said UN Special Represenative to DRC William Swing.
    “We'll finish the first phase of deployment by the end of the week,” he added.

    Escalation of violence

    UN peacekeepers are due to set up operations at Iga Barrier, 25 km north of Bunia and at Bogoro and Marabo, 25 and 38 km south of Bunia.
    An escalation of the violence, which has caused some half a million people to flee their homes, led to the deployment of a French-led EU security force in Bunia in June.

    Troops of the Ituri Brigade, as the new UN force is called, are mandated to deploy across Ituri, a region about twice the size of Belgium.
    UN peacekeepers were shot at by unknown gunmen Saturday near a village close to Kachele and returned fire, a MONUC spokesman said Sunday. They have a mandate to use arms to protect civilians from attack.



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