Fifty-seven people have been killed or wounded when a mortar shell slammed into a hospital in East Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), says the UN.
"On February 27 the Saint Benoit Hospital was reportedly hit by a mortar shell resulting in up to 57 casualties, including patients and staff," UN deputy spokesperson Eduardo del Buey said on Friday, citing UN peacekeepers in the area.
He did not specify whether the 57 were killed or wounded, adding that "the UN mission is in the process of confirming the number and status of the victims."
He said peacekeepers from Monusco – the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo – were helping to evacuate the wounded and carrying out military helicopter overflights.
Battles between the army and a rebel militia in East DRC have left at least 36 people dead and thousands have sought refuge at a UN base, a spokesperson said on Thursday. One peacekeeper was also wounded.
Between 3 000 and 4 000 people are at the peacekeeping base at Kitchanga in North Kivu province, in an early test for a UN-brokered peace accord aimed at ending two decades of war and strife in the mineral-rich region.
Clashes between the DRC army and the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo, better known under its French acronym Apcls, erupted in the region on Wednesday.
The Apcls is a longstanding militia in the region that made its name battling the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in the 1990s when wars in the DRC and neighbouring countries left millions dead.
Kitchanga is in the Masisi region of North Kivu, close to where the army and UN peacekeepers are in a showdown with the M23 group. Deadly fighting has also been reported this week between M23 factions.
The unrest comes after a UN-brokered peace deal signed on Sunday by 11 African nations, including DRC.
DRC's President Joseph Kabila vowed to step up efforts to extend government control to the lawless eastern part of the country, while the other nations promised not to interfere in the affairs of their neighbours.
UN experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23 fighters. Both countries deny the charge and signed the non-interference pledge. – AFP