Army sends reinforcements after militia attacks

Weapons destruction by MECHEM UNDP project in Alpha Marr.
(Alain Budema/UNDP DRC)

The Congolese army has sent reinforcements to Ituri in the northeast after several attacks by suspected militia from the rebel Front de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), sources said.

"We have made all the necessary arrangements to repulse the militia," an officer of the Democratic Republic of Congo army, who requested anonymity, said. The operation was considered "top secret", he added.

FRPI militia have fought government soldiers since 29 September and occupy an estimated 40km-wide territory after dislodging the soldiers from Tchey, Bukiringi and Kagaba localities south of Bunia, the capital of Ituri province.

On 30 September, they ambushed a convoy of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC). "The blue helmets returned fire, four [blue helmets] were injured," Madnodje Mounoubai, MONUC spokesperson in Ituri, said.

Despite claims by witnesses that bodies were recovered, Mounoubai said no deaths had been reported.

Two MONUC helicopters were also attacked by the militia on 2 October in Kagaba. "There were no deaths or injuries, but one of our helicopters has bullet holes," Mounoubai added.

Three days earlier, a MONUC helicopter dispatched to assess the clashes between government and FRPI forces came under a similar attack in Tchey and Quinz, two localities in Ituri.

"The helicopter responded by firing two rockets on the attackers," Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC military spokesman, said.

He said new recruits who had merged with the old fighters in the FRPI ranks were responsible for the recent attacks.

An estimated 2,000 FRPI militia have refused to participate in the national disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, according to MONUC.

Meanwhile, security has been reinforced in Dungu, Orientale Province, which experienced a series of attacks by Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

"We started by transporting a FARDC [the national army] battalion to Bunia and Dungu," Lt Gen Babacar Gaye, MONUC military commander, told IRIN.

FARDC had also started deploying troops to Dungu from Kisangani, the main town in the province, Gaye said. MONUC was helping to provide logistical support to the army.

Between 17 and 26 September, LRA rebels attacked at least eight villages in Dungu. Thousands of civilians were displaced, with 1,200 fleeing into Uganda.

The displaced have since been living with other families or near schools, said the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) public relations officer, Francesca Fontanini.

"The majority are sleeping out in the open without mattresses, without cooking utensils," Fontanini said, adding that aid agencies were working to improve their living conditions.

See Related Story: Thousands flee LRA attacks on northeastern villages

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