Five Killed in New DR Congo Rebel Attack near Beni


Five people were killed in a new attack blamed on Ugandan rebels near Beni in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said Tuesday.

More than 300 people, most whom have been hacked to death, have been killed during seven months of massacres in the troubled North Kivu province by Muslim rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Hundreds of Beni residents marched through the streets of the trading town of some half a million people on Tuesday, accusing the authorities of doing nothing to protect the local population.

The Civil Society of Beni, an association of civic bodies, on Monday called for strikes and protests until further notice, but acting mayor Angele Nyirabitaro urged people to return to work.

The latest murders occurred late Monday at Mavivi, close to Beni, which lies 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Goma, the capital of the mineral-rich province.

"We found the bodies of five people killed with machetes and axes, and seven injured," regional official Amisi Kalonda told AFP.

He said the victims had been coming back from the fields at nightfall when they were set upon by men "presumed" to be from the ADF, a movement that rose up in the mid-1990s against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and which later established bases on the Congolese side of the border.

Major Victor Masandi, spokesman for the Congolese military operation against the rebels, said that one group of guerillas attacked an army position while another set upon the civilians.

President Joseph Kabila visited Beni last October and promised that the national army would "conquer" the ADF in military operation Sukola-1, which is commanded by his close ally General Muhindo Akili "Mundos."

Kabila also announced that he would change the leadership of Sukola-1, but he has not followed up on this commitment. Two days after he went to the town in the wake of another massacre, an angry crowd pulled down a local statue of the president.

Police fired in the air to disperse students and other demonstrators near the city hall on Tuesday, an AFP photographer saw. The widespread protests brought usual business to a halt.

At a separate rally, police opened fire with tear gas, witnesses said. The security forces had orders to break up protesters, acting mayor Nyirabitaro told AFP, stating that he had "no magic wand" to end the killings.

The security situation in the region dramatically deteriorated in the past week, with seven more people killed in an additional massacre similar to the Mavivi attack on Friday.

Two Tanzanian U.N. soldiers from the large United Nations peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, were killed in an ambush near Beni on May 5, in which 13 other U.N. troops were wounded.

The U.N. mission includes a Force Intervention Brigade with a special mandate from the U.N. Security Council to take offensive action against the wide range of armed movements active in the east of the country.

Last December, U.N. troops launched a joint operation with the Congolese army against the ADF, which restored a degree of calm to the Beni region but failed to end killings -- mostly by machete.

Last week, MONUSCO announced that a "rapid response unit" had been sent to the Beni area, while the U.N. Security Council reiterated that targeting peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.

Military cooperation between the U.N. mission and the Congolese army was seriously hindered when Kabila's regime named two generals to head an offensive against a separate rebel force from Rwanda. Both men are on a U.N. blacklist of serious rights violators.

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