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Two mass graves reported in eastern village of Ntulumamba

BUNIA, 13 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Two mass graves believed to contain the remains of 39 civilians killed on Saturday in Ntulumamba village, in Kalonge Chiefdom 75 km north of Bukavu, have been reported to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), a UN spokeswoman said.

The spokeswomen, Sylvie van den Wildenberg, said on Wednesday from Bukavu that survivors revealed the graves and said they mostly contained the bodies of women and children. MONUC's Pakistani South Kivu Brigade dispatched an airborne Quick Reaction Force to investigate, along with UN civilian teams.

"This mission has the task of establishing those responsible for the massacre so that they will be hunted down," she said.

A follow-up team comprising MONUC human rights, child protection and humanitarian staff, as well as forensic specialists and representatives of Congo's judicial authorities will be sent to the village.

Survivors had told MONUC they were attacked by Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Forces democratique de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR); a view shared by the acting governor of South Kivu Province, Didas Kaningini. The survivors said the rebels struck at night. They said the rebels herded villagers into their huts, locked them up and set the huts alight. Those who resisted being placed in the huts were slashed with cutlasses.

"They demanded dollars, and since we did not have any they tied us up, sprinkled us with gasoline and set us alight," a survivor said over UN-supported Radio Okapi.

A senior officer of the FDLR, Edmong Ngarambe, denied his group was responsible. He blamed the Rastas, a breakaway dissident FDLR group which, he said, worked closely with Congolese militias. Another survivor, speaking over Congolese Radio in Bukavu, supported Ngarambe's claim.

"It was Col Kiyombe Chinja Chinja's Rastas who maltreated us. They accused us of giving away their positions to the Congolese army and MONUC," the survivor, whose name was withheld, said.

The FDLR and Rastas have previously been accused of mass killings and human rights violations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of their leaders are accused of having masterminded or carried out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which some 937,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days.

As they continue to kill, President Joseph Kabila has ordered his army to disarm all other foreign armed groups in eastern Congo. The FDLR is the largest of these groups. Others are Burundi's Front national de liberation (FNL) headed by Agathon Rwasa, in the region of Uvira; the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU) in the Beni/Butembo region; and the People's Redemption Army whose precise locations have not yet been verified.

The FDLR occupies an area on the east side of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, where there are no Congolese troops.

"We do not know what goes on over there, but we have a battalion ready and are awaiting orders to move in to protect civilians," Lt Kasanda Wa Kasanda, the Congolese army spokesman in Bukavu, told IRIN.

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