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Massacre in Congo Interrupted by Troops

Tribal fighters raid a tiny village, killing nine people, before French soldiers arrive.

August 06, 2003|From Associated Press

NYANDA, Congo — French troops on helicopter patrol over the lush green savanna of troubled northeastern Congo stopped a massacre in progress Tuesday in a remote village, although nine villagers died, residents said.

The attack began before dawn when Lendu tribal fighters armed with automatic weapons and machetes raided this tiny village of the Hema tribe from two directions, chief Nguna Manasse said.

The attackers came in two waves, Manasse said. The first, dressed in military uniforms, fired on fleeing villagers; the second, in civilian clothes, hacked the wounded with machetes.

"There were so many of them, I could not count because we were running," Manasse said after he and other residents ventured back to the village, 12 miles from Bunia, the capital of Ituri province.

The sound of the helicopters drove off the attackers, he said.

Manasse said it wasn't clear who the uniformed attackers were, although Lendu tribal fighters often don uniforms taken from rivals. But there was no doubt that the men in civilian clothes armed with machetes were Lendus, residents said.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in tribal fighting in resource-rich northeastern Congo since a rebellion backed by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda broke out in August 1998.

Although the main rebel groups have reached peace deals with the government in Kinshasa, 1,000 miles to the west, and have joined the regime, violence over land, cattle, gold and power continues in Ituri.

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