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Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2003

U.N. takes arms in Congo

September 4, 2003

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— United Nations troops have begun ferreting out hidden weapons in this volatile town in northeastern Congo, the commander said Wednesday.

Three days after they took over from a French-led force, U.N. troops have seized automatic rifles and "a lot of ammunition" in searches on both houses and men in the street, said Brig. Gen. Jan Isberg, acting commander.

"We really would like to turn Bunia into a weapons-free city," he said. "We will find those weapons."

The French-led force deployed in June with a limited mandate. Its job was to secure the airport, protect displaced people and aid workers in a town where clashes between Hema and Lendu factions had killed more than 500 people.

The French restored calm and kept weapons off the streets, but Isberg said there were still small arms and ammunition throughout Bunia, including depots hidden by tribal fighters.

Meanwhile, fighting continues in the rest of Ituri province.

In the latest violence, at least 200 Hema were reportedly killed and 137 abducted for use as laborers and sex slaves in a series of raids by Lendu fighters that destroyed a town northwest of Bunia.

Today, U.N. investigators were to begin a probe into the killings in Fataki, 40 miles northwest of Bunia, said Madnodje Mounoubai, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo.

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