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100 held in killings in north Congo

November 09, 2009|Reuters

KINSHASA, CONGO — Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested about 100 armed men blamed for killing dozens of policemen in an attack in the country's isolated north last month, the government said Sunday.

Villagers had killed 47 policemen sent to quell clashes over fishing rights between two villages in Equateur province, according to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo.

The government disputed the death toll given by the United Nations but vowed last week to stem what it called the start of a new uprising.

"There were about 100 young men armed with hunting rifles, knives, machetes, AK-47s, and machine guns. They were arrested and disarmed," said Information Minister Lambert Mende, referring to an overnight raid on the town of Dongo.

There were no casualties in the police sweep and the group put up limited resistance, Mende said, adding that more fighters might have disappeared into the bush.

Residents of Enyele and Monzaya, representing two different ethnic groups, have been feuding over fishing rights in recent months.

About 16,000 villagers fled across the border into the Republic of Congo after the attack on the police late last month.

Armed villagers had held Dongo until security forces entered the town late Saturday, discovering burned homes and an unknown number of bodies.

"It's finished now in Dongo, and we are asking the population to return. Now they will begin the negotiations phase, because they still must live together," Mende said.

The clashes were not linked to fighting in Congo's eastern borderlands, where the army, backed by thousands of U.N. peacekeepers, is trying to eradicate local, Rwandan and Ugandan rebels who roam the mineral-rich regions.

The government has been struggling to restore state control over the vast former Belgian colony since a 1998-2003 war and humanitarian disaster in which an estimated 5.4 million people died.

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