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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 June, 2003, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Uneasy calm in DR Congo town
French soldier
French led troops tried to broker a ceasefire on Saturday
Relative calm has returned to the town of Bunia, in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, after a fierce gun battle on Saturday.

The Lendu militia who launched the attack were driven back by Hema fighters holding the town.

The conflict between the ethnic groups has left hundreds of people dead in recent weeks.

A party of French troops, the advance guard of a United Nations-mandated force responsible for bringing peace to the town, arrived on Friday.

At the height of the fighting the UN commander made frantic efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, says the BBC's Ishbel Matheson, who is in the UN compound in Bunia.

It failed because, he said, both sides regard the town as their rightful territory.

BUNIA CONFLICT
More than 400 dead in May
50,000 killed in recent years
Ethnic rivalries made worse by foreign armies

Our correspondent says that, while the fighting has virtually ended for the time being, the situation is tense and everyone is asking if and when hostilities will break out again.

Previous efforts to settle the conflict between the Hema and Lendu fighters have failed miserably.

A tougher security force from the United Nations is to be deployed shortly but, while the French-led mission may be able to impose a kind of peace in the town, it has no UN mandate to intervene in the fighting elsewhere in the region.

French soldiers provide the nucleus of the 1,400-strong force. Diplomats say the UK, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland will also contribute soldiers - alongside a number of African nations such as South Africa and Senegal.

According to Ugandan reports, tens of thousands of people have been fleeing attacks from militia around Bunia.

Civilians have been arriving in the Congolese town of Beni, 150 kilometres (93 miles) to the south, and their numbers have raised concern about a possible food crisis there.




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