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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 December 2005, 15:44 GMT
UN captures DR Congo rebel town
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa editor

UN troops in Bunia - library picture
UN and Congolese troops fought together against the militia
An operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, involving helicopter gunships and 1,900 UN and Congolese troops, has taken a key town from a rebel militia.

The town of Nioka has been captured, UN military spokesman Major Hans-Jakob Reichen, told the BBC.

The town, 80km (50 miles) north of Bunia, had been a rebel stronghold.

The joint operation, which began on Thursday, was against a militia led by Peter Karim. He has now fled northwards, the UN says.

Two of his bodyguards have been captured and the UN and Congolese troops hope to take him as well.

The militia he leads has been accused of atrocities against civilians in the region, which borders Uganda and Sudan.

Lawless region

This is the most lawless region of DR Congo, which is recovering from years of civil war in which more than three million people have died.

The eastern region of Ituri has been out of the control of the capital, Kinshasa, hundreds of kilometres to the west.

Minerals and rich timber resources have led to vicious territorial disputes, which Congo's neighbours have exploited for their own ends.

The UN has 16,000 peacekeepers deployed in the country - its largest military operation in the world.

The aim is to hold elections later next year, but this will be an uphill task while gunmen and bandits rule so much of this vast country.

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