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Fighting displaces 60,000 in Katanga Province, bishop says

KINSHASA, 23 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Some 60,000 people fleeing fighting between the Congolese army and local Mayi-Mayi militiamen resisting demobilisation have now arrived in the village of Dubie in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Katanga Province, Roman Catholic Bishop Fulgence Muteba said on Tuesday.

"They started arriving a week ago when clashes broke out," he said from the southeastern city of Lubumbashi.

He said 2,000 of the displaced persons arrived Sunday and Tuesday. "Many other women and children are expected to come," he said.

He said the 60,000 displaced in Dubie were in addition to another 16,000 people who fled the fighting against a local Mayi-Mayi leader he identified as Gedeon. So far, no other humanitarian agency has corroborated the number of displaced in Dubie.

Muteba said only Médecins Sans Frontière-Holland and the Church were providing care to the displaced. He said the Congregation of Franciscans, a Roman Catholic order, had opened a nutritional feeding centre but, like MSF, it was overwhelmed by the influx of people fleeing the fighting.

"The displaced people were totally destitute when they arrived in Dubie. Some of them were almost naked," Muteba said.

The army launched its attacks to disarm all Mayi-Mayi groups in Katanga on 12 November in an operation due to last one month, Congolese armed forces spokesman Jean-Willy Mutombo said. In Lubumbashi, Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa, in charge of national defense and security, said the army had been ordered to wrest control of the province from the Mayi-Mayi who had controlled it for the past 10 years.

Unlike army operations in northeastern Congo, UN troops have not deployed to support the Katanga operation, the UN mission's military spokesman, Col Thierry Provendier, said.

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