KINSHASA (AFP) — Several dozen civilians were killed last weekend in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo during attacks blamed on Rwandan Hutu rebels, the UN mission to the DR Congo said Wednesday.
The killings took place in an attack on May 9 and 10 on Busurungi, a Nord-Kivu village located near Sud-Kivu province, said a statement released late Wednesday by the UN mission known as MONUC.
"The residents of the area indicated... that at least 35 civilian victims have been buried" but "the exact toll (from the attack) is not yet known," the statement said.
MONUC said an inquiry is under way to find those responsible "for these atrocities."
"Several local sources and witnesses have pointed the finger at the FDLR (the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) which has attacked several villages over the past few weeks," MONUC said.
These attacks have also forced a large number of people to leave the village of Busurungi which has a population of about 15,000, and head north towards Hombo, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) away, the UN mission said.
There have been clashes between the FDLR and Congolese armed forces in the area, a military spokesman said.
Government soldiers were also reportedly killed and wounded in the fighting.
According to a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kinshasa, citing local sources, more than 90 people, including some 60 civilians and about 30 soldiers, were killed in an attack blamed on the FDLR in Ekingi, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Bukavu in Sud-Kivu province.
However, the reports of killings in Ekingi have not yet been confirmed by MONUC.
"The situation is very serious, very worrying," said MONUC military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich.
The FDLR rebels have been operating out of eastern DR Congo since the aftermath of Rwanda's 1994 genocide by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority. Some of its members are accused of being among the main perpetrators of those massacres.
The Congolese army launched a joint operation with Rwanda's armed forces in late January against the Rwandan Hutu rebels in Nord-Kivu province, but they remain active, some having fled to Sud-Kivu.
"There are some FDLR elements that have regrouped in Sud-Kivu. They have moved from the north to the south," a military spokesman said.
The Congolese army and MONUC are currently planning operations in Sud-Kivu to neutralise the Rwandan Hutu rebels.
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