22 civilians killed and mutilated in Nizi, Ituri District

The mutilated bodies of 22 civilians were discovered on Monday in Nizi, a village 22 km north of Bunia, the principal town of the troubled Ituri District of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The spokesman of the EU-led multinational peace enforcement mission deployed in Bunia, Col Gerard Dubois, told IRIN on Tuesday that the victims were "primarily women and children". They were discovered by a patrol of the multinational forces. He said that a reconnaissance mission was sent by helicopter to Nizi after an unusually large number of people - between 2,500 and 3,000 - arrived in Bunia on Sunday. The patrol found the town empty, except for several Lendu fighters who opened fire as they fled the village, after having pillaged it. The patrol returned fire, wounding a Lendu militant, Dubois said. Continuing on to Kilomoto, 40 km northwest of Bunia, the patrol found that it, too, had been abandoned by its residents. "The patrol found arms and documents showing that the village served as a headquarter office for Lendu combatants," Dubois said. Ethnic strife in Ituri District between Hema and Lendu militias caused between 200,000 and 350,000 people to flee when fighting worsened in May, according to humanitarian sources. Due to prevailing insecurity, the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, has been unable to deploy military observers outside Bunia, while the EU-led peace enforcement mission sent to reinforce MONUC is not mandated to act outside of the town.