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Military court investigates Goma killings

GOMA, 4 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - A senior officer in the 8th Military Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Col Christophe Bindu, and four of his personal guards, have appeared before a military court in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province, following the death on Friday of at least 10 people, among them two children.

Gen. Gabriel Amisi, who commands the 8th Military Region, told IRIN on Monday that Bindu, who is his chief of staff, was accused of being responsible for the deaths as well as for having criminals amongst his personal guards. They first appeared in court on Saturday.

Lawyers for Bindu denied all the charges against him and said that if his guards committed crimes they should be held responsible individually.

The newly integrated national army is made up former belligerents of the country's recent wars. Bindu and his personal guards were members of a former May´-May´ militia group. Amisi and the majority of soldiers under his command were combatants in the former rebel Rassemblement Congolais pour la democratie.

Amisi said Bindu's guards had disobeyed orders. "I had prohibited soldiers from circulating in town on Friday so that the population could celebrate [national] independence's day without fear," Amisi said.

Witnesses in the western Goma suburb of Murara, near Bindu's home, said the exchange of fire started there when Bindu's guards refused to be disarmed by the military police. The shooting continued for an hour until Indian UN troops intervened.

The director of the Goma General Hospital, Richard Kabuyanga, said, "In the evening on 30 June, we received 13 military personnel seriously wounded, two of them died the same day and another died the following day."

Amisi said, "The two children, aged six and seven, were killed by shrapnel which landed on their parent's home."

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