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Deployment Of UN Troops In DRC's Ituri Province - 2003-10-10

Armed militia groups in Congo's northeastern province of Ituri have pledged to reveal to the United Nations the numbers and whereabouts of their troops. U-N troops have begun deploying from the provincial capital, Bunia, into the Ituri countryside, following the massacre of more than 65 people earlier this week.

The armed groups promised to hand over details of the whereabouts and numbers of their troops to U-N peacekeepers.

The meeting between the United Nations armed Ituri militia groups and representatives from the Congolese Ministry of Defense followed the massacre of at least 65 civilians, mostly children, some 60 kilometers northeast of Bunia on Monday. More than 50-thousand lives have been lost in Ituri since 1999.

U-N troops, which will number about five-thousand at full strength, have been planning their deployment into Ituri, a province roughly the size of Sierra Leone, since they took over in September from a French-led multinational force.

The peacekeepers have also begun their first initial deployment into the town of Bule, some five kilometers from the scene of the latest massacre in the hamlet of Katshelli, sending 120 troops to prepare the ground for a permanent deployment.

The U-N force, comprised of Banglasdehi, Pakistani, Nepalese, Uruguayan and Indian troops, has a broad mandate to open fire at will.

Congo's new national government, which formally ended five years of war that had claimed over three million lives, is comprised of the former government and other ex-rebel groups backed by Uganda and Rwanda.