Page last updated at 03:48 GMT, Sunday, 2 May 2010 04:48 UK

Top UN man investigates massacre claims in DR Congo

By Thomas Fessy
BBC News, in DR Congo

John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, visited the remote town of Niangara

The UN is investigating reports of a massacre by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A senior UN official says as many as 100 people were killed in the alleged attack, which is believed to have taken place in February.

John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, said on a visit to the country that an investigation was under way.

If the claims are true it would bring the number of people killed between December and March to more than 500.

Mr Holmes said rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army had carried out the massacre in the village of Kpanga in the north-east of the country, near the border with southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

After visiting the remote town of Niangara, near the site of the alleged killings, Mr Holmes said an investigation had been launched to find out exactly what had happened.

Marie Mbolihundele
I started to pray, and then they pulled my lips with pliers and cut them off with a knife
Marie Mbolihundele
Kidnap victim

It would bring the total number of people killed in DR Congo between December and March to more than 500.

The UN says that in the same period, more than 300 others - nearly half of them children - were abducted. An unknown number of villagers were also mutilated, according to the UN.

Among them is Marie Mbolihundele, who says she was held by three LRA rebels in a northern area of Niangara two weeks ago. She says they sliced her lips off and one of her ears.

"They ordered me to lie down on the ground and they told me I shouldn't scream or they would kill me," she said.

"I started to pray, and then they pulled my lips with pliers and cut them off with a knife. Then they told me to run, so I stood up and fled."

Mr Holmes acknowledged that Congolese and Ugandan forces deployed in the region to hunt down LRA combatants had had some success.

But the rebels were now spread over a wider area and therefore posed a greater danger, Mr Holmes said.

He called on the international community to put an end their "reign of terror".

The LRA was set up in Uganda in 1987 with the intention of toppling the government. The revolt ended in 2005, but the rebels started attacking villages in DR Congo.

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