UN told of massacre of 966 civilians in NE Congo
NAIROBI, April 6 (Reuters) - The U.N. said on Sunday its investigators
had been told that 966 civilians were massacred by tribal militias with
machetes and guns on Thursday and buried in mass graves in the
northeast of Democratic Republic of Congo.
"The investigating team heard that 966 people were massacred. They
identified 20 mass graves and visited 49 seriously injured people in
hospitals," the spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo (MONUC)
Hamadoun Toure told Reuters in Kinshasa.
Witnesses said the massacre happened early on Thursday when
attackers descended on the town of Drodro and 14 neighbouring
villages near Bunia, the capital of Ituri District, which lies 80 km (50
miles) from the border with Uganda.
Toure said the MONUC investigators had talked to local priests, tribal
leaders and eyewitnesses who said the orgy of killing lasted for three
The investigators, who visited Drodro on Saturday, saw evidence of
clothing and traces of blood above the mass graves, Toure said.
Uganda's army spokesman Shaban Bantariza said he was aware that
"hundreds had been killed" in Drodro but he was awaiting further
information from army representatives who had gone to investigate.
Reports of a massacre overshadowed the start on Friday of talks to
bring peace to war-ravaged northeastern Congo, organised by the
Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) which is supported by the
Congolese and Ugandan governments and MONUC.
Ethnic clashes in Ituri have killed thousands of people since 1999.
The Hema and Lendu tribal militia signed a ceasefire agreement in
March to allow the IPC to begin its work, eventually leading to the
withdrawal of Ugandan troops from eastern Congo.
Residents of Drodro, which is inhabited mainly by the Hema ethnic
group, said Thursday's attackers spoke a Lendu language.
Local human rights groups say up to 500,000 people have fled their
homes and 50,000 more have been killed in the past four years, as
rival rebel factions, ethnic militias and the Ugandan army have fought
for control of gold-rich Ituri District.
The conflict in eastern Congo is part of a wider war which has carved
up the country between Kinshasa government and a number of rebel
groups. The government, rebels and the opposition signed a deal on
Wednesday to create a transitional government, paving the way for
elections after 2-1/2 years.