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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 03:03 GMT
DR Congo to investigate killings
Refugees from DR Congo
Congolese civilians have been forced to flee
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo says it is sending officials to the southern Katanga province to investigate claims that more than 100 people have been killed by government soldiers.

Reports from the town of Ankoro said the FAC (Congolese Armed Forces) opened fire on residents and burned down houses, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

A Congolese minister, Ntuba Luaba, said the government mission would identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

"Our mission will not ignore anything. We have the responsibility to assure the protection of all our people," he told Reuters news agency.

Residents said the killings started after an argument between the soldiers and Mai-Mai militias, who have been armed by the Congolese government to fight rebels controlling eastern Congo.

Normally the 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. It is not clear why they fell out.

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

The BBC's Mark Dummett, in Kinshasa, said a resident of Ankoro told him that people were being caught in crossfire. He said that the army had accused the people of supporting the Mai-Mai.

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.

He added that one well-known Mai-Mai fighter commands a unit that eats its victims after killing them.

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


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21 Nov 02 | Africa
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