Thirty burnt alive in the DRC

More than 30 civilians were burned alive when an armed gang herded them into their huts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and set them on fire, the United Nations mission in the DRC said on Monday.

“More than 30 civilians, mostly women, were killed and about 50 wounded” in the attack on Saturday night on Ntulumamba village, about 70km to the northwest of the border town of Bukavu in Sud-Kivu province, the spokesperson for the UN mission Monuc Kemal Saiki said.

Sud-Kivu province, which borders on Rwanda and Burundi, is one of the most volatile parts of the vast central African nation emerging from a 1998-2003 war and like, areas further north, is home to many former rebels and militia groups.

The victims were forced into their huts and their homes were then set ablaze, said Saiki.

Pakistani UN peacekeepers sent to the village reported that local people were saying there had been 39 deaths.

“Several victims had already been buried and for the moment it is impossible to confirm this toll of 39 dead,” a Monuc spokesperson in Bukavu said.

Witnesses who fled blamed local militias and a Hutu rebel force from neighbouring Rwanda long holed up in the area, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

UN sources said was impossible to say immediately who was responsible as the FDLR is deeply split into factions and local militias are constantly shifting their alliances.

The FDLR denied involvement in the attack.

Many members of the FDLR, including several of the group’s senior military commanders, are accused of having played an active role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide which, according to a UN estimate, left 800 000 people, essentially minority Tutsis, dead.

At the end of March the FDLR members agreed to lay down their arms and return home but have not done so.

Witnesses suggested the attack could have been carried out in retaliation for an offensive by UN troops and the Congolese army in the zone in a bid to dissuade the authorities from collaborating with the Congolese authorities and the UN.

Early on Monday the Congolese army said it came under attack by the FDLR and local militias in three villages in the region of Rutshuru in Nord-Kivu province.

The villages were located about 150 kilometres north of Goma,

the main city of Nord-Kivu.

“It was a strong force that attacked our positions. We retreated to a few kilometres south of the villages. But our troops are already in action to take back control of the villages,” said Colonel Janvier Mayanga, commander of the 12th brigade of the Congolese army.
- Sapa-AFP

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