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43 dead in latest drive against rebels

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KINSHASA, 17 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - In the latest joint UN-Congolese army military operation that started on Monday in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) military officers say at least 40 militiamen and three government soldiers have been killed and these figures are likely to rise.

"We are still searching [for bodies] so the number of dead could increase," Capt Olivier Mputu, the government army spokesman in the region, said on Tuesday at a news conference.

At least four government soldiers were wounded, he said.

The fighting occurred in Ituri District along the Semiliki River, which flows south from Lake Albert near the border with Uganda. Mputu said on Tuesday the operation was continuing but that the area was already under army control.

"There are no more militiamen in the area," he said.

The spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), Lt-Col Thierry Provendier, said MONUC had provided 350 troops, armoured vehicles and 14 boats for the operation. The action is aimed against a new militia known as the Mouvement Revolutionnaire Congolais (MRC) which, Provendier said, was created in August. He said MRC was one of the few militias still fighting in Ituri.

"There are now only scattered rebel groups there and they do not represent a real threat," he said.


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