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Congo soldiers held over alleged rapes, looting-UN

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 12 Jan 2011 18:32 GMT
Author: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Click For Restrictions.
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A group of government soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been detained over allegations of sexual violence earlier this month, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Human rights officers from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, believe that over a dozen women were raped and subjected to other abuses at the beginning of January, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"Their provisional report says that 13 women were raped, 19 others suffered various other abuses," Nesirky said. "The assailants also looted 14 shops."

The incident took place in Fizi, in the South Kivu province of eastern Congo.

"The mission says that 10 suspects, all members of the government army and including a ranking officer, are being held in connection with these crimes," Nesirky said.

Last summer hundreds of people were raped by Rwandan Hutu rebel forces in eastern Congo. U.N. officials said at the time that Congolese government soldiers fighting the rebels were also likely guilty of rapes, killings and looting.

The government of Congo has been struggling to regain control over the country since a 1998-2003 war and accompanying humanitarian disaster that killed 5.4 million people.

Its army has been accused of human rights abuses during U.N.-backed operations against the FDLR rebel group. Last month a U.N. Security Council committee blacklisted a Congolese army commander for ordering massacres and rapes of women and children in the country's violent east.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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