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UN envoy concerned over renewed militia activity in Ituri

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KINSHASA, 23 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Although 15,000 former militiamen in the Democratic Republic of Congo's northeastern district of Ituri have been disarmed, the UN mission in the country, known as MONUC, says it is concerned over the regrouping and rearming of the fighters, despite intense UN military operations.

"We need to do more and do it very fast to ensure that [more] militiamen don't go back to the bush and start fighting again," William Swing, the head of MONUC, said on Wednesday at a news conference in the capital, Kinshasa.

He said militias were now joining forces, across traditional ethnic divides, to confront a more robust challenge from UN peacekeepers.

Operating under a mandate that allows for the use of greater force, hundreds of UN troops, backed by armoured vehicles and helicopters, have been dismantling militia camps, seizing weapons and arresting fighters in the northeast and east of the country. This, Swing said, was to help prepare for the coming elections.

MONUC Force Commander Lt-Gen Babacar Gaye said the situation in Ituri demanded that MONUC continue intensifying its operations. He declined to speculate on who was rearming the militia.

"The problem of arms trafficking is a challenge and the rearming of the Ituri militias is MONUC's main concern," he said. "But we can't accuse anyone without proof."


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