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Latest killings in South Kivu part of long-standing abuses

KINSHASA, 26 May 2005 (IRIN) - An armed group of mostly Rwandan Hutus in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is accused of killing 18 civilians, mutilating 11 others and taking around 50 hostages on Monday.

The group, known as the Rastas, has been committing numerous human-rights abuses in the region, according to sources in the government and the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC.

The Rastas allegedly committed the violations at Nindja, a village in the territory of Walungu in the eastern province of South Kivu.

Last week, they took 20 other civilians hostage from the same village, the deputy governor of the province, Didas Kaningini, told IRIN on Wednesday.

"They demanded almost [US] $2,000 ransom, but they didn't get it as most of the hostages managed to escape," he added.

MONUC reported on 18 May that it had documented 1,724 cases of summary execution, rape, beating and hostage taking in Walungu between June 2004 and April 2005.

The head of the MONUC section of human rights, Fernando Castanon, said the cases were based on 405 confidential interviews that were conducted between 12 and 29 April.

The alleged perpetrators are members of the Rastas as well as the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR). Both groups consist primarily of Rwandan Hutus who fled their country following the 1994 genocide, and some are accused of having participated in the genocide.

The army is planning operations to hunt down those responsible for killing and abusing civilians in Walungu as well as the territory of Kabare, army spokesman Lt Kasanda Wa Kasanda, in South Kivu, told IRIN on Thursday.

In Monday's attack, the Rastas came out of the forest at around 2130 p.m. (0030 GMT) armed with clubs, pickaxes and machetes, Kaningini said. "They attacked whoever they could, pillaging and taking hostages."

Kaningini added that some of victims had their limbs cut off, others were disembowelled. At least four of the wounded are admitted to a hospital in a serious condition.

MONUC said it was sending a team to investigate the attack.

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