An advance unit of French soldiers arrived in Bunia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Friday, to prepare for the arrival of an estimated 1,400 multinational peace enforcement troops, the French news agency AFP reported.
"Several dozen special force soldiers landed at dawn this morning at Bunia airport," the agency quoted Col Christian Baptiste of the French military headquarters as saying.
The French troops also took up position to secure the Bunia airport, AFP reported.
Baptiste said there had been no one wounded in what he called the "preliminary phase" of the operation, codenamed Artemis, "which aims to ensure that the necessary technical and security conditions are in place to allow the deployment of the international force" in the town.
AFP reported Baptiste as saying that the bulk of the troops would start arriving "in the coming days," but gave no specifics.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on 30 May to send an armed French-led multinational force to Bunia following ethnic unrest in Ituri District that has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.
In an interview on Thursday on Radio France Internationale (RFI), the chief of staff of the French armed forces, Gen Henri Bentegeat, said the multinational troops would operate only in Bunia.
"This mission must contribute to the stabilisation and the establishment of security in the town of Bunia and to the protection of the airport and of the refugees who are there, and that's all," Bentegeat said. He added that the mandate of the UN resolution was clear that the mission was authorised to secure Bunia town.
When asked if the force would take action if acts of violence were committed 30 km or 40 km away from Bunia, Bentegeat said: "We won't stand by, I can guarantee you that, in the sector entrusted to us."
"[The UN] Resolution 1484 gives responsibilities to the force in which we are taking the role of the leading nation but also to all states in the region, which have committed themselves to controlling all militias under their influence in the region," he said.
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