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Congo ambush kills nine UN troops

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Congo ambush kills nine UN troops

Nine United Nations peacekeepers from Bangladesh have been killed in an ambush in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN says.

The attack happened on Friday morning in the north-eastern Ituri region, where 4,800 peacekeepers are deployed.

A UN spokesman said the troops were ambushed by "unidentified armed elements" while they were on patrol.

The UN force in Ituri also includes peacekeeping troops from Pakistan, Morocco and Nepal.

The UN's spokesman in Kinshasa, Mamdou Bah, said the ambush happened at about 0920 local time (0720 GMT) near the town of Kafe, 30km (19 miles) north-west of the provincial capital, Bunia.

The men killed were among 21 Bangladeshis on patrol in a camp housing civilians who had fled fighting in the region, the spokesman told the Associated Press news agency.

"These blue helmets were out there protecting people and they got ambushed while doing it."

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called the attack a "criminal act" and urged the government to bring those responsible to justice.

The Bangladeshi army issued a statement confirming the deaths, but did not release the soldiers' identities. Officials said one of those killed was a captain.

The army said the bodies would be brought back to Bangladesh with the help of the UN.

Rival militias

Ituri has been the scene of bitter ethnic fighting for a number of years.

Violence between rival militias resumed in the mineral-rich province in December, and aid workers say tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting - many fleeing to neighbouring Uganda.

UN forces have come under attack in Ituri before, but this is the first time that soldiers have been killed there, says the BBC's correspondent in the region, Ishbel Matheson.

Bangladesh, which is one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations across the world, has 1,300 troops in DR Congo.

This is the second biggest loss of life for the Bangladeshi army while on UN peacekeeping duties.

In October 2003, 15 Bangladeshi officers died in a plane crash in Liberia.

Bangladesh's President Iajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and army chief Lt Gen Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury expressed deep shock at the death of the soldiers in Ituri.

In separate statements, the president and the prime minister said the contribution and sacrifice of the soldiers in maintaining peace would be remembered across the world.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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UN troops strike back in DR Congo

United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have killed more than 50 militiamen in a gun battle in the north-east, the UN says.

The fierce fighting came during a major offensive against an ethnic militia, accused of killing nine Bangladeshi UN soldiers in Ituri province last week.

A UN spokeswoman accused the militia of killing and raping civilians from rival groups, and said they must be stopped.

The UN force in DR Congo is one of the world's largest, at more than 13,000.


"While on operation we were fired upon, so we immediately responded," said Col Dominique Demange, a spokesman for UN forces in DR Congo.

He said the Pakistani UN troops had used helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles in the operation against the militia.

Those killed are believed to be from the ethnic Lendu Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI), whose leader has been arrested following the killing of the Bangladeshi peacekeepers.

The UN chief of staff in DR Congo, General Jean-Francois Collot d'Escury, vowed to dismantle all the militia camps in the area, saying his message to the gunmen was straightforward: the UN peacekeepers know how to fight.

However, one local Lendu leader told Reuters news agency that the UN mission in DR Congo (Monuc) was wreaking indiscriminate revenge.

"We say Monuc is looking for vengeance, and they are seeking it against the Lendus without even verifying exactly who it was who carried out the massacre of the Bangladeshis," said Larry Batsi Thewi.

Time up

Tuesday's clash took place near where the Bangladeshi troops were ambushed last week, outside Loga, 30 km (19 miles) north of Bunia, Ituri's provincial capital.

AFP news agency reports the militia were based on a plateau overlooking the town of Kafe, where more than 8,000 people have fled recent violence.

The FNI are accused of terrorising their ethnic Hema rivals in Ituri.

"This group continues to loot, kill and rape these people, making life miserable," said UN spokeswoman Eliane Nabaa.

"It's time to put an end to this militia."

Two UN soldiers were wounded in the latest clashes, said the UN office in Bunia.


On Monday, the Congolese government said three FNI commanders had been detained.

The three include the militia's leader, Floribert Ndjabu. The FNI denies killing the UN troops.

There are more than 13,000 peacekeepers in DR Congo, following a 2002 deal to end five years of civil war.

But ethnic militias in Ituri have so far refused to disarm and have continued to fight for control over the region's rich natural resources.

As a result of the resumption of violence in the region, the UN humanitarian agency, Ocha, has stopped some of its activities, depriving more than 50,000 displaced civilians of humanitarian assistance.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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UN takes fight to DR Congo militia

After years being derided as "tourists in a war zone", the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sent out a new message - that it will get tough on ethnic militias.

Known as Monuc, the UN force in DR Congo is one of the world's largest, and one of its most controversial.

Nine of its troops were killed last week in an ambush in DR Congo's north-eastern Ituri region, the deadliest attack since Monuc was set up in 1999.

Monuc has responded with a high-profile offensive killing 50 militia fighters.

UN military spokesman Jean-Francois Collot d'Escury told a press conference that the message of the Ituri campaign was: "We know how to fight".

Some 15,000 militia in the region - where a recent surge in violence has forced thousands of civilians to flee - have been warned they face more such operations if they continue to resist pressure to disarm.

Gen Collot d'Escury said Monuc was determined to dismantle camps used by the fighters, even if it meant using force.

The new tough talking follows a year in which Monuc's failure to prevent rebel forces taking control of the key eastern town of Bukavu prompted criticism and anti-UN riots.

Strengthened mandate

The mission's reputation has also been damaged by claims of sexual abuse of women and girls by peacekeeping troops stationed in DR Congo.

Correspondents say the latest offensive marks a significant shift in the way the UN tackles the huge task of maintaining peace in a country the size of Western Europe - and may go some way to restoring its credibility.

The Bukavu debacle last summer pushed the UN Security Council to strengthen the mission's mandate in DR Congo.

A UN Security Council resolution in October 2004 authorised an extra 5,900 personnel for Monuc, taking the official ceiling for troops and police to 16,700.

The mandate for the mission, which includes representatives of more than 40 countries, was also reinforced to "ensure the protection of civilians 'under imminent threat of violence'".

UN spokesman Kemal Saiki told the BBC News website the offensive showed that extra troops in Ituri were starting to make an impact, even though the full deployment has not yet been reached.

'Armed crooks'

"Before, we had a situation where we did not have a critical mass of military means and tools to conduct this kind of operation," he said.

"Our plan is to step up our activities in those parts of the country where there is still a lot of violence and unrest caused by the presence of so-called militias.

"They are basically armed crooks, rather criminal than political, preying on the population and trying to exploit the wealth of the area."

He said the Monuc unit involved in the latest offensive, comprising Pakistani, South African and Nepalese troops, had called in combat helicopters in self-defence after coming under fire while searching for weapons dumps.

And he warned the militia could expect many more such operations if they continued to resist the peacekeepers' efforts to disarm them.

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa says most people in DR Congo welcome Monuc's offensive against the Ituri militia as long overdue.

"The real scandal for Monuc for the people was the fact that the UN wasn't imposing the peace that it was supposed to impose, so it wasn't really fulfilling its task," he says.

'Still reeling'

"Now it's managing to do so, people are happy because that is what they want."

But although Monuc's stance has been welcomed by Congolese ministers, the struggle to quell the country's violence is far from over.

Despite a rise in the number of peacekeepers deployed, Monuc still has far fewer than the 23,900 troops and 500 police recommended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last year.

The BBC's Mark Doyle, who was in Ituri late last year, says the Congolese people will remain wary about their security.

They know that the UN force is overstretched, he says, and are also well aware that the international community will only be with them for a limited time.

In the end, he concludes, Congolese politicians will have to sort out a country which has never known democracy and is still reeling from decades of dictatorship and war.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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End the illegal occupation, support the insurgeny! rolleyes.gif

seriously though, its nice to the UN doing something, but i think more than just peace keeping needs to be done, all it does is prolong or perhaps pause the problems, as opposed to fixing them.

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These African nations are a lost cause...with all the massacres you just can't ignore the situation...but getting involved will just inflame it... no.gif

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UN to replace Congo mission head

The head of the UN mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo is to leave his post.

Top envoy William Lacy Swing will be replaced by a new special representative later in the year.

The UN mission in DR Congo has faced criticism after allegations that UN peacekeepers sexually exploited refugees in their care.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Mr Swing would remain in the job for the time being to allow for a smooth transition.

Violence has flared in the turbulent north-eastern Ituri region of DR Congo, where the UN has one of its largest missions, with more than 13,000 troops.

In late February, nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers died when they were ambushed whilst on patrol in the area and, on Tuesday, 50 militiamen were killed during a UN operation against the militia in the same area.

"The secretary general noted that Mr Swing evidently had his hands full across all these fronts and would need to show strong leadership in all these areas," Mr Eckhard said.

"They concluded that with his plate so full, this was not the moment for a sudden change of special representative," he added.

Last month, a UN team investigated 72 allegations of abuse by UN peacekeepers and civilian staff.

According to its report, published in January, 26 of these claims were substantiated and included cases of girls as young as 12 being given small sums of money or food items in exchange for sex with soldiers based around the north-eastern town of Bunia.

In response, the UN introduced a strict non-fraternisation policy, banning its peacekeepers from having sex with local people.

Six Moroccan soldiers were also arrested following the investigation.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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