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Militia release 5 reporters in exchange for 270 bicycles

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KINSHASA, 29 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Mayi-Mayi militiamen released on Thursday five local reporters they had taken hostage earlier this week in the Democratic Republic of Congo's southern province of Katanga.

"They were released five days after [their seizure) in exchange of 270 bicycles that the Mayi-Mayi stole from MONUC," Alexandre Essome, a spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), said on Friday.

He said the militiamen had seized the reporters in protest at the arrest of their leader, Mbayo Mpiana Mwana Butot, alias Chinja Chinja.

MONUC said the bicycles were supposed to have been exchanged for guns but that operation was suspended after the reporters, covering the exchange, were seized.

It is not immediately clear whether or not, in addition to the release of the reporters, the militiamen gave up their weapons.


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