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Civilians seek refuge near UN military camp to escape fighting

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KINSHASA, 29 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - At least 1,000 residents of two villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo's northeastern district of Ituri sought refuge on Wednesday around a camp of Bangladeshi UN troops following fighting between militiamen and the national army, an official of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said.

"The number of displaced is not known but the counter-offensive by the army and MONUC caused panic and the civilians fled," said Lt-Col Djibril Samassa the MONUC military spokesman in Bunia, the main town in the district.

The villages of Sabe and Tchomya, are about 70 km southeast of Bunia.

In Sabe, Samassa said, the militiamen pillaged the marketplace and shops before the army and MONUC chased them out.

The militiamen are the remnants of various militias that have regrouped into a new faction called the Mouvement revolutionnaire du Congo. Some 16,500 fighters from various Ituri militias have voluntarily disarmed to MONUC since 2005.

According to Samassa, those who fought on Wednesday were among 2,000 to 4,000 who have refused to disarm.

"Three of the militiamen were killed on Wednesday," Samassa said. "Many more were taken prisoner and a large amount of arms and munitions were recuperated."

MONUC said that another group of militiamen attacked the town of Kagaba, 40 km south of Bunia, where the Congolese army and MONUC had recently retaken control.


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