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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 10:55 GMT
Thousands flee Congolese battle
UN troops and helicopter in eastern DR Congo (Copyright: Monuc)
UN and Congolese troops fought together against the militia
Ongoing fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has displaced thousands of people, a United Nations officer has said.

Michel Bernardo from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said up to 11,000 people have been uprooted by the conflict.

He added it was still too dangerous to bring aid into the region.

About 40 people have died in recent fighting between Ugandan rebels and Congolese forces backed by UN troops.

The east has been out of the control of central government for many years and despite an the end to the civil war, bands of militia groups still terrorise civilians and use the rich minerals and timber of the region to finance their operations.


Neighbouring countries were drawn into DR Congo's brutal five-year conflict in which 3m people were killed.

But Mr Bernardo said the UN's joint offensive - known as North Night Final, involving 3,500 Congolese troops and supported by 600 UN peacekeepers using helicopter gunships - had helped to bring stability to the region.


He said that although the worst was over, lots of people are now on the road and camping out in the open and a main priority for them would be to find food.

"The problem is that when they left their homes like that they couldn't carry much food with them," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

But with military operations still ongoing, it was too dangerous to bring in humanitarian aid, he added.

The fighting began when the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group launched a counter-attack against the Congolese and UN soldiers in North Kivu province.

Lt-Col Frederic Medard, the military spokesman for the UN mission, said on Wednesday the UN operation had succeeded in dismantling all known ADF camps.

But he added that all rebels in the area had to be captured before security could be ensured.

"It will be important to carry on with patrols to look for armed elements who could have found refuge in the forest areas. Therefore, we can say that the operation is not really over yet," he told Radio France Internationale.

Since last week, more than 500 UN peacekeepers and about 3,000 Congolese soldiers have also been conducting other large operations in the nearby district of Ituri, aiming at restoring peace.

Some 15,000 UN troops are in DR Congo to help restore stability and organise elections next year.

In the latest results from last week's referendum, Congolese voters have overwhelmingly backed a new post-war constitution, which will pave the way to the polls.


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