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Nepali UN Peacekeepers Released in Congo


Two Nepali U.N. peacekeepers held hostage by militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been freed. The United Nations says it is continuing to maintain contact with gunmen who are holding other blue helmets.

Congolese militiamen released two of the seven Nepali U.N. peacekeepers they have been holding for more than a month.

A U.N. spokesman said the two blue helmets were in good health and had been reunited with their fellow soldiers at a peacekeeping base in Democratic Republic of Congo's lawless Ituri district.

The peacekeepers were seized last month during a gun battle between U.N. troops and a militia group led by a local warlord called Peter Karim who, like many others in Congo's east, continues to fight just a month before scheduled elections.

During negotiations, Mr. Karim has issued a range of demands, including thousands of dollars in cash and the release of militia fighters held in prison.

But the United Nations denies ransom has been paid and said contact between the world body and the hostage takers was continuing.

The peacekeepers are part of the 17,000 member mission that is trying to pacify the Congo and support a transitional government charged with organizing the first free and fair elections in more than 40 years.

The latest crisis demonstrates just how much work remains to be done before Congo's mineral-rich east can be pacified

Thousands of the gunmen who fought in the 1998 to 2003 war continue to roam the countryside, attacking civilians and those who are there to help them.

Since it began eight years ago, Congo's war has killed four million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

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