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48 combatants arrested after returning from Burundi exile

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KINSHASA, 16 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said it arrested 48 dissident soldiers, including 11 officers, on Tuesday in the east of the country near its borders with Rwanda and Burundi as they were returning from exile.

"The soldiers are linked to [a dissident former colonel] Jules Mutebusi," Col Baudouin Nakabaka, the commandant in southern South-Kivu's town of Kanyola, said on Thursday.

In June 2004, Mutebusi and his men, who are mainly Congolese Tutsis, attacked Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu. Nakabaka said that after the attack they fled across the border and had only now returned.

"They crossed the border near the village of Bwegera, 150 km south of Bukavu," he said.

He said each soldier had a gun. "They had 40 two-way army radios," he addded.

The dissident soldiers were first arrested by the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu rebel group based in eastern DRC, according to an official at the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) who wished to remain anonymous.

"The FDLR then handed them over to the army," the MONUC official said.

The government has issued an ultimatum for these and other illegal foreign troops to leave the country by 30 September or face serious consequences.


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