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Great Lakes
Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 20:18 GMT 21:18 UK
DR Congo town faces 'disaster'
French troops near Bunia in DR Congo
Bunia residents say peacekeepers provide only limited security

United Nations monitors in the Democratic Republic of Congo have warned of a human rights catastrophe in the north-eastern town of Bunia.

Diplomats with the UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) say there has been a wave of rape, abduction and murder in the town.

A Monuc spokesman said: "The human rights situation is more and more catastrophic. We deplore rapes carried out every night on young girls."

French troops arrived in Bunia 11 days ago as part of an UN-mandated international force to protect civilians from fighting between ethnic Hema and Lendu militias.

The violence has killed an estimated 500 civilians in the past two months, and residents complain that the peacekeepers have so far provided only limited security.

Two incidents have pitted peacekeepers against militiamen in recent days.

On Monday, two Congolese gunmen were shot dead after pointing their weapons at French soldiers.

Limited resources

The dead fighters, both believed to be in their 20s, were the first fatalities in Bunia since the French troops were deployed in the town in early June.

A UPC militia near a UN compound in Bunia
Rebels deny they are terrorising the local population

Days earlier, French soldiers came under fire from gunmen on the outskirts of the town.

The French said on Monday that they currently only had enough troops to patrol the town's airport.

More reinforcements are expected to arrive, including about 100 British troops.

Ethnic violence has flared in the troubled north-eastern region of the DR Congo since April, when Uganda began withdrawing troops it had stationed there.

Bunia, then came under the administration of the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), following the Ugandan withdrawal, in early May.

French troops in Congo clash
14 Jun 03  |  Africa
In pictures: French troops in Bunia
15 Jun 03  |  Photo Gallery
Normal life on hold in Bunia
15 Jun 03  |  From Our Own Correspondent

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