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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Clashes near DR Congo gold mine
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC, Kinshasa

People fleeing last year
Ituri residents are again fleeing their homes
Fighting has broken out in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN says.

Two rival militias have been battling over a gold mine, 100km north of Bunia.

Some 50 fighters have been killed. There are no figures for civilian casualties but the UN says that several villages have been deserted.

Fighting between ethnic militias near Bunia has claimed some 50,000 lives since July 1999. Last year, UN peacekeepers deployed to the area.

Looting feared

The latest fighting has been in the little town of Ngote, said UN Bunia spokesperson Rachel Eklou.

The clashes began a week ago for the control of the gold mine of Djalasiga.

The civilian population has fled and has either entered the town of Mahagi or into neighbouring Uganda.

The Congolese co-ordinator of the UN sponsored Ituri administration Emmanuel Leku said that calm has now returned around the mine, which is under the control of the Congo People's Armed Force militia of Commander Jerome Kakwavu.

Djalasiga is one of the numerous gold deposits located on the 83,000 square kilometres Kilo-Moto gold mine, which belongs to the Congolese state. But the reason for the latest fighting between the two rival armed groups, the Congo People's Armed Forces and the Ituri Nationalist Front remains unclear.

The UN mission in DR Congo (Monuc) has deployed some 4,500 armed troops in the Ituri district but the UN spokesperson said that renewed fighting and looting are still feared in the town of Mahagi, where soldiers of the rival groups move freely.

At the end of last month, the UN mission in Ituri reported that militia groups had enrolled new combatants despite a deal they had signed a month earlier in which they had committed to lay down their arms.

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