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Mayi-Mayi militiamen kidnap 5 journalists as their leader is arrested

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KINSHASA, 28 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Congolese Mayi-Mayi militiamen took five journalists hostage this week in northern Katanga Province as UN sources confirmed that the militia leader, Mbayo Mpiana Mwana Butot, alias Chinja Chinja, was arrested earlier in April in the capital, Kinshasa.

"No reason was given [by the Mayi-Mayi] as to why the journalists have been taken, but it seems to be because their leader was arrested," La Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), a local human rights NGO, said.

Chinja Chinja, which means 'slaughter-slaughter' in Swahili, is accused of numerous massacres and other atrocities, including cannibalism, in Upper Lomami district in northwest Katanga.

According to VSV officials, who said they had talked with a sixth journalist who had escaped, the journalists, all Congolese, were captured at Kilumbe, in Upper Lomami, where they had gone to cover a disarmament exercise in which Mayi-Mayi militias were supposed to receive bicycles in exchange for their weapons.

Negotiations for the release of the journalists started on Monday between the hostage-takers and one of organisers of the disarmament exercise, Pasteur Ngoy Mulunda, VSV said.

Congolese judicial authorities have not yet made a statement on the hostage taking or on Chinja Chinja's arrest.

However, Fernando Castanon, the head of the human rights section of the UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUC, confirmed the arrest.

"We are pleased by the arrest," Castanon said in Kinshasa. "Chinja Chinja and his combatants are accused of torture, rape, mutilation and drinking the blood of their victims."


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