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49 bodies of civilians found in mass graves in DR Congo

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Mass graves holding over 49 bodies believed to have been killed by armed militants were, on Wednesday, discovered by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a statement by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country said on Thursday.

Deputy spokesperson for the United Nations, Farhan Haq, told reporters in New York that the graves were uncovered in two villages in northeastern Ituri province, about 30km (19 miles) east of the town of Bunia.

“A total of 42 victims, including six children, were discovered in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in another village, Mbogi, Haq said.

“Peacekeepers launched a patrol to the area immediately after receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militias over the weekend. This is when they made the gruesome discoveries,” he said.

Haq said the UN has called for an investigation that would establish whether the mass graves and the attacks were linked, adding that the UN regional peacekeeping operation, MONUSCO, was “supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks” and called “for the perpetrators to be brought to justice”.

Ituri has been a restive province in the DRC which borders Uganda where the CODECO armed group (Cooperative for the Development of Congo), operates from.

The region, according to the UN, has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks after the killing of a teacher belonging to the Lendu community triggered reprisal attacks from CODECO, which claims to represent the Lendu ethnic group.

CODECO blamed the teacher’s death on a rival militia called Zaire, which claims to represent the Hema ethnic group.

The Lendu and Hema communities have a longstanding feud which has led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force.

Metro

M23 rebels take control of Kitshanga in eastern DR Congo

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The M23 rebels have announced that its fighters have seized control of the strategic town of Kitshanga, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after days of intense fighting.

The DRC military authorities also confirmed in a statement late on Friday that its forces have withdrawn from the town in a tactical move to protect civilians in the face of a renewed offensive by the rebel militia.

“We have tactically withdrawn from the city in order to attract these genocidal forces deep into the city and avoid the worst for our people in Kitshanga,” spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, said in the statement.

“We are making every effort to dislodge this enemy,” he added.

Videos then emerged on social media showing the M23 fighters celebrating and claiming they had captured the town.

The M23 rebels said it took control of Kitshanga town on Thursday night after capturing several villages on the road linking the town of about 60,000 people to the provincial capital, Goma.

In an earlier statement, M23′s spokesman, Lawrence Kanyuka, has accused government troops of attacking civilians in Kitchanga and elsewhere, and said the rebel group was “obliged to intervene and stop another genocide”.

While condemning the recent development, the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO), said more than 500 people, including women and children, are seeking refuge at its base in the town of Kitshanga.

MONUSCO spokesperson, Ndeye Khady Lo, said civilians fleeing from Kitchanga have been given tents, food, water and first aid.

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Metro

237 African migrants rescued off Libyan coast

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Not less than 237 African migrants were on Friday, rescued after their makeshift boat capsized off the Libyan coast while navigating the dangerous Mediterranean Sea, on their way to Europe.

French medical charity, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which carried out the rescue mission, said the migrants were rescued by its chartered rescue vessel, Geo Barents, which was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, north of the country’s capital Tripoli, when it received a distress call.

“The Geo Barents ship encountered other overcrowded rubber dinghies with migrants attempting to reach Europe and took them on board,” the NGO said.

“Following instructions by the maritime rescue coordination centre, the ship then sailed towards the northern Italian port of La Spezia.l,” it added.

The MSF and other NGOs operating rescue vessels off Africa’s northern coast have accused the Italian government of deliberately assigning far away ports to discourage their operations, an accusation the Italian Interior Ministry had denied.

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