Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Hutu rebels 'retake Congo bases'

Congolese forces in action
The Congolese army has not held its positions, as the Rwandans pull out, the UN says

Hutu militias have re-occupied areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo despite the recent offensive against them, UN officials say.

Fighters of the FDLR group were driven from their bases by a joint force of Congolese and Rwandan troops.

But United Nations refugee agency officials say the FDLR has returned, as Rwanda starts to withdraw its troops.

The FDLR's presence in eastern DR Congo has always been seen as a major factor in the region's instability.

And once again, Hutu militias are said to be terrorising local villages.

Gunmen are killing civilians, burning houses and raping women in North Kivu province, UNHCR spokesman David Ntengwe told the BBC.

The Hutu militias have also been using civilians as human shields, he said.


The Congolese and Rwandans launched a joint offensive against the FDLR in January.

Recently a Congolese government spokesman claimed his forces, working with the Rwandans, had destroyed the rebels' command structure.

And Congolese President Joseph Kabila has said foreign troops would be out of the country by the end of this week.

Thousands of Rwandan troops were deployed in North Kivu but they are deeply unpopular because, along with Uganda, Rwanda occupied eastern DR Congo between 1998 and 2002.

On-and-off fighting involving the FDLR, the army and other militias has forced more than one million people in North Kivu to flee their homes since late 2006.

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