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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 17:33 GMT
Jail for DR Congo child shootings
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC, Kinshasa

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A soldier has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering the killing of five children in Ituri in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The army captain ordered men under his command to shoot five schoolchildren who had carried stolen loot for him.

The incident took place last year 50km south-east of the main town, Bunia.

Human rights groups have welcomed the sentence as a sign that justice is returning to Ituri, which has seen some of the country's worst violence.

The officer and his men ordered five schoolchildren to carry loot taken from village residents after they conducted an operation against dissident militiamen, according to the judge's account.

The sentence was handed down on Saturday but reports have only just reached the capital, Kinshasa.

Orders

Upon reaching his home, the convict ordered one of his men to shoot down the five porters, claiming they were militiamen. The victims were then buried in the same village in a mass grave dug at a hill named Golgotha.

After the parents of the victims realised the children had disappeared, a search was mounted by the villagers, and within a day a mass grave with the schoolchildren in was found.

The captain and the army were also ordered to pay $265,000 in compensation to the families of the victims.

This is the second soldier sentenced for war crimes in Ituri in recent months.

A few months ago, Chief Kawa, the leader of the Pusic rebel group was handed a 20-year jail sentence for war crimes committed under his command.

DR Congo is waiting for the results of elections which are intended to draw a line under its five-year conflict.


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