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Hutu rebels quit forest area under UN pressure

KINSHASA, 11 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - The deployment of United Nations troops has forced Rwandan rebels to withdraw from several areas of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, including a national park.

A UN spokeswoman in the eastern Congolese town of Bukavu, Sylvie van den Wildenberg, said on Friday about 1,000 UN troops have been sent to remove Rwandan rebels from several areas in South Kivu Province, including the Kahuzi-Biega park.

"The result is that military pressure has borne fruit," she said.

MONUC, the UN's mission in the DRC, has not given further details of how many Rwandan rebels may have left, or where they went.

Van den Wildenberg said the military operation, Operation Iron Fist, was launched at the same time as MONUC's heliborne deployment, Operation Falcon Sweep. The objective of both was to force out Rwandan rebels, accused by human rights groups of looting, raping and killing Congolese civilians.

"Our message is that they can put down their weapons immediately and accept the offer to return to Rwanda in a dignified manner," she said.

MONUC's military spokesman, Col Thierry Provendier, has said operations will continue until the last rebel fighter leaves.

Most of these fighters come from Rwanda's majority Hutu ethnic group. Some fled Rwanda after the 1994 genocide and are implicated in carrying it out. Others who are younger, were brought up as refugees in the Congo.

Recently, one of two Rwandan Hutu groups in eastern DRC, announced it would abandon its war and return home. It has since, however, been since bogged down by internal dissent.

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