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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 15:14 GMT
Killings in southern DR Congo
Refugees from DR Congo
Congolese civilians are bearing the brunt of the war

There are growing reports of fighting breaking out between government troops and Mai-Mai militias in Katanga province, in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


The FAC (Congolese Armed Forces) set fire to the houses and incinerated people inside. They shelled the village and shot at the people who were fleeing.

Father Francois Mwila
Normally these two sides are allied in the fight against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda.

But now it appears that in one part of Katanga that alliance is in tatters, with terrible consequences for the local population.

In the town of Ankoro, the birthplace of the late president Laurent Kabila, residents say more than 100 people have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee.

Crossfire

A resident of Ankoro town in north Katanga told me people are caught in crossfire.

He said that on the one side are the government soldiers, and on the other the Mai-Mai, a traditional militia, armed by Kinshasa to fight Rwandan-backed rebels.

It is not yet clear how the two sides fell out, but there are several accounts that their dispute in the areas of Katanga, along the frontline with rebel territory, has already seen a terrible loss of life.

A priest and a human rights organisation in DR Congo's southern city of Lubumbashi said more than 100 people in Ankoro were killed by the army on 10 November, that thousands of homes were burnt, and that more than 75,000 people have fled into the bush.

A human rights organisation, the Commission for the Popularisation of Human Rights and Development, said that bodies were still being pulled out of the River Congo, and found in the burnt wreckage of houses.

The resident of Ankoro, who himself was forced to flee to Lubumbashi, said that the army accused the people of supporting the Mai-Mai.

Eating victims

Fighting has since spread, he said, to neighbouring districts.

To make matters worse, he accused both the soldiers and the Mai-Mai warriors of killing innocent civilians.

One well-known Mai-Mai fighter, he said, commands a unit that eats its victims after killing them.


They (the FAC) were intent on plundering. Before the clashes began, a commander told a district official that he had had enough with the Mai-Mai and that he would burn the village.

Father Francois Mwila
The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo said it had not received any information on the death toll of the fighting in Katanga, but confirmed that Mai-Mai and government troops had been fighting each other for more than a week.

In Kinshasa Defense Minister Irung Awan said he knew nothing about the reports of fighting, and that he would look into it.

Meanwhile friends of a priest, father Francois Mwila, say he has been forced into hiding in Lubumbashi after giving an interview to the Voice of America radio station about the killings.


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15 Nov 02 | Africa
26 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Oct 02 | Africa
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