At least 10 rebels have been killed in clashes with government forces in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) region of Ituri, prompting thousands of civilians to take flight, according to military and humanitarian sources.
The bodies of 10 men, presumed to be members of the Front de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FPRI) were counted during mopping-up operations on 29 January in Tcheyi, a town 100km south of Bunia, Ituri’s main town.
The FPRI was headquartered in Tcheyi from 2005 but the area has recently come under the control of the regular army.
“Some 400 fighters were based there. Others fled towards Mount Hoyo [20km to the south] or headed west to Marabo and Irumo, where our troops managed to kill two of them,” the army’s spokesman in Ituri, Captain Charles Boyeka, told IRIN.
When the fighting broke out, 2,600 civilians fled to the nearby town of Bukiringi, according to one resident.
“It’s clear there was a large population movement but it is impossible to get solid information,” said Conteh Idrissa, information officer with the UN’s Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Bunia.
According to OCHA, there have also been reports of small groups of people arriving in Bori, Sorodo, Matefo, Dimba, Zoko, Motemba, and Dila, villages close to Bukiringi.
“The population of Tcheyi is not displaced, despite the fighting. We had given them plenty of notice before the clashes to disassociate themselves from the rebels,” said Boyeka.
The army said it launched an offensive on FPRI-controlled territory after one of its patrols was attacked on 16 January at Kamachi, 75km south of Bunia. Two soldiers were killed in the incident.
“We pulled back to Mount Monde Arabe where they surrounded us the following day. After reinforcements arrived from Bunia, we gave chase on the foot of the mountain. Our troops captured eight [rebels], the others pulled back to Tcheyi,” said Boyeka.
Over the following days, he said, the army retook several locations held by the FPRI: Kamatsi, Veterinaire and Aveluma.
Inter-community clashes in Bunia escalated dramatically in 1999, since when they have claimed at least 60,000 lives.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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