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THE WORLD

Congo Rebels Guilty of Cannibalism, U.N. Says

January 16, 2003|From Reuters

KINSHASA, Congo — Rebels have engaged in cannibalism, systematic rape, torture and kidnapping during recent fighting in remote areas of Congo inhabited by Pygmies, the United Nations said Wednesday.

"They cut out the hearts and other organs of their victims and forced families to eat them.... One little girl was executed, cut into little pieces and then eaten," U.N. spokeswoman Patricia Tome said of the findings of an investigation into alleged atrocities in northeastern Congo's jungles. "These armed groups are composed of freaks, and these freaks are out of control."

Tome said fighters of the Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo, or MLC, and two smaller factions were to blame for the atrocities. Since 1998, war in Congo has left an estimated 2 million dead, most from disease and starvation.

Investigators from the U.N. Mission in Congo were sent to the area around Beni after the start of the fighting, which aid agencies say has uprooted about 155,000 people. Fighting continued despite a December peace deal. A local truce has now halted the fighting.

The U.N. investigators interviewed 368 people, including witnesses and victims. Their report cited 117 arbitrary executions between Oct. 24 and 29. It cited 65 rapes, including the rape of children; 82 kidnappings; and 27 cases of torture. Belief in magic is thought to have played a role in the cannibalism.

The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Wednesday condemning "in the strongest terms" the atrocities and holding MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba responsible.

Bemba said Tuesday that he had placed the officers responsible under house arrest.

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