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Rebels attack villages, kill 24, displace thousands

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KINSHASA, 11 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Thousands of civilians began arriving in the town of Walungu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday following attacks on four nearby villages, in which at least 24 civilians were hacked to death.

"Most of the displaced are small children and old women," Donatien Nakalonge, a local community leader in the town of Walungu in South Kivu Province, told IRIN on Tuesday.

They walked 15 km from their villages of Tchindudi, Mungombe, Kanyola and Rudundu, in a valley 60 km south of the provincial capital, Bukavu.

"They are have been arriving here since Monday evening and they are exhausted," Nakalonge said.

He said no humanitarian organisations were helping the displaced, as yet.

The spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), Kemal Saiki, said on Monday that a UN team had, so far, visited two of the villages and confirmed that 15 people had been killed, including six children.

The South Kivu governor, Didas Kaningini Kyoto, said on Monday that Hutu Rwandan rebels belonging to a breakaway group known as the Rastas attacked the villages on Sunday.

They did not use guns, he said, because "they did not want to be noticed by soldiers at an army base on a hill nearby".

He added: "They killed their victims with machetes and axes, smashing victims heads in with hammers."

Many civilians were also seriously wounded. They are being treated at the Walungu General Hospital, Kaningini said.

At least six homes were also burned down.

Saiki said MONUC and army troops were now patrolling the area. MONUC has a base 15 km away but the troops there can only reach the villages by foot.

In Bukavu, the spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs, Nadia L'heureux, said humanitarian organisations were trying to organise aid but, she said, they were concerned about further attacks by the Rwandan rebels.

Fighting between the army and Mayi-Mayi militiamen also occurred in the area in June, forcing civilians to flee.


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