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Thursday, August 27, 1998 Published at 03:02 GMT 04:02 UK

World: Africa

'Hundreds' die in Congo massacre

Members of the rebel force have been blamed for the attack

Italian missionary sources now put at more than 200 the number of civilians killed in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Congolese rebels have denied allegations that they were responsible for the deaths of the civilians, who included a number of foreign missionaries.

A rebel spokesman in the town of Goma described the attack in south Kivu province as barbaric, and blamed bandits for the killings.

Earlier this week, the Italian missionaries blamed the attack on members of the Banyamulenge tribe, ethnic Tutsis who began the rebellion against President Laurent Kabila.

Pope John Paul said he deplored the killings.

A Catholic news agency (MISNA) said the victims of the massacre were buried near the town of Uvira.

The killings took place on Monday, in the same general area where the missionaries had earlier reported the massacre of 37 people, including five nuns and priests.

There are more than a thousand Roman Catholic missionaries, priests, nuns and lay workers, living in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

About half are Italians who have gradually taken over work previously carried out by missionaries from Belgium, the former colonial power.

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