Congo: July 1, 2005

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The UN reports new major clashes between UN peacekeeping troops and rogue militias in the eastern Congo. On June 27 at least 300 UN peacekeepers tangled with 150 militia fighters in Ituri Province. The UN troops involved in the operation were Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Moroccan. The UN force was in the village of Medu (north of Bunia) conducting a search operation (presumably a weapons search operation) when 150 militiamen attacked with mortars and RPGs. The firefight lasted eight hours, before the militia fighters withdrew. Two Indian Mi-25 attack helicopters supported the UN ground troops in the engagement. The militiamen apparently belonged to the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI).

The government now estimates that 8000 to 10,000 militiamen remain in the eastern Congo, and 1,000 of these militiamen are armed. Rwandan sources say the total number of militiamen is closer to 15,000-- but it is the armed component that is of course the determinative figure. Until late May, the government and the UN were reporting some success in their disarmament program. The disarmament program includes "persuasive" programs (like trading bicycles for automatic rifles) as well as the active military operations.


 

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