Wednesday, January 6, 1999 Published at 12:36 GMT
Congo rebels investigate massacre allegations
Rebel leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo are reported to have ordered an investigation into an alleged massacre of up to 500 civilians, many of them women and children, over the New Year.
The Roman Catholic missionary news agency, Misna, based in Rome, said the killings took place at the village of Mokobola, in the east of the country. It said entire families had been slaughtered, by machete or gun over a three-day period.
'Act of retaliation'
Misna editor, Father Giulio Albanese, told the BBC he believed the massacre was "an act of retaliation against the civilian population" for their support of the Mai Mai - a group Congolese nationalist partisans supported by President Laurent Kabila who are fighting the Tutsi rebels known as the Banyamulenge.
Earlier rebel forces around the rebel stronghold of Goma denied that any killings had taken place. A local commander, Jonas Padiri, said the area was quiet and there had been no problems.
State of fear
Around 350 people were killed in a similar reprisal attack in the same area last August.
Father Albanese, said that tension was still high in the area and the civil population was living in great fear. He said the news had taken so long to emerge because people who break such information run the risk of being killed.
Congolese rebels launched an offensive in the east last August in an effort to topple President Kabila. They have tried to win the support of the Mai Mai traditional warriors, but have largely failed with frquent fighting between the Mai Mai and Tutsi rebels.