DR Congo Vows to Punish Army Rapists

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The Democratic Republic of Congo's defense minister on Saturday vowed to investigate allegations that soldiers committed rape during recent fighting in the east of the country and vowed there would be no impunity.

Alexandre Luba Ntambo said military inquiries were carried out in December and February following clashes pitting the army against the M23 rebel group that briefly seized the main eastern hub of Goma.

"Two hundred and two suspected rape victims have been heard, as well as 346 presumed looting victims. Given the high number of victims... further inquiries are needed," he told reporters in Kinshasa.

"When the investigation is completed, the responsibility of the suspected perpetrators will be established and I can assure you they will be severely punished," he said.

A United Nations official said on Thursday that the DRC had been given a deadline in March to act against two army battalions accused of carrying out 126 rapes as they fled an M23 offensive in November.

The U.N. mission in DR Congo will stop working with the two battalions if action is not taken, the official told reporters. The DR Congo army relies heavily on U.N. peacekeepers for support in the battle with armed groups in the strife-torn east.

Human Rights Watch said in a report in February that several women told their investigators that "soldiers in official army uniform forced their way into the women's homes at night, pointed guns at them, and demanded money.

"The soldiers then threatened to kill the women if they refused to have sex with the soldiers or if they screamed for help. Some of the victims were gang raped in front of their husbands and children by several soldiers operating together," said the report.

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