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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Militia claims DR Congo victory
rcd rebels
The RCD retreat after battles for Uvira
The Congolese Mai-Mai militia claims to be in almost total control of the eastern Congolese town of Uvira after the latest day of fighting.

Gunfire and artillery explosions shook the strategic port city on Lake Tanganyika's northern shores late on Saturday, according to the United Nations, which said the clashes had caused thousands of civilians to flee towards neighbouring Burundi.

refugees
Refugees are fleeing towards Burundi
The fighting comes after the recent withdrawal of tens of thousands of Rwandan and Ugandan troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is trying to end a four-year regional war that has left some two million people dead.

Rebels, local factions and militias are vying for control over resource-rich areas in the vast central African nation.

Traditional Mai-Mai warriors, who fight bare-chested and believe magic charms can stop bullets, have stepped up attacks, and Uvira is seen as a significant military victory.

The Mai-Mai militia said that the fighting pitted its men against those of RCD Goma, the Congolese rebel movement allied to Rwanda which is supposed to control the region.

Capital at risk

Regional security sources say that groups far more dangerous than the Mai-Mai are fighting alongside them.

They said some of them were Burundian Hutu rebel movements, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the Rwandan Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 genocide, the Interahamwe.

Azarias Ruberwa, the secretary general of the Congolese rebel group that administered the town after the departure of the Rwandan troops, had said that if Uvira fell it would serve as a passageway for these rebel groups.

The FDD, he had said, would be able to enter the Burundian capital Bujumbura just 20km away, and the Interahamwe could return to Rwanda.


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03 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Sep 02 | Africa
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19 Sep 02 | Africa
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