Thirty-some militiamen of two different armed groups were killed by the armed forces in a series of operations aimed at regaining control of territory in the Ituri province, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to military sources quoted by the Radio Okapi broadcast of the United Nations peace mission in DR-Congo (MONUC), the regular armed forces seized key positions in the area around the gold mines of Mongwalu, for years controlled by armed factions that exploit and illegally export the gold, particularly to Uganda. Two government soldiers and at least 17 members of the UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots) - until a year ago among the most powerful militias of Ituri - were killed in the fighting in the areas of Mbindjo, Akwe and Yeti, north of Mongwalu. In the area of Bukiringi, south of the large mines, some 13 militiamen of the PUSIC (another very active group in the province) were killed in clashes. If further confirmed, these episodes would represent a significant step in the extension of State authority in a zone of the country that has for long remained no mans land presided by armed factions, despite the military presence of the UN that in Ituri counts over 4,000 peacekeepers. During the conflict of 1998-2003 more than 50,000 people were killed and over half a million were displaced just in this province.