Fresh fighting has erupted in Congo's northeastern town of Bunia, where UN troops returned fire on militiamen attacking U-N positions in the center of town. One Bangladeshi U-N soldier was injured in the clash.
The fighting started Wednesday evening and went on for nearly four hours. The attackers came in from the south and one from the east, firing on a Uruguayan U-N base in the center of town. U-N troops deployed into the town returned fire. One U-N soldier from Bangladesh was injured.
U-N troops have been deployed in Bunia since September, taking over from a French led European force. Their broad mandate is to patrol the town and the surrounding district of Ituri, and open fire at will when threatened. Fighting in Bunia has escalated since May between ethnic Hema and Lendu militias backed by Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo, all vying for control of Ituri's mineral riches.
Over 50-thousand lives have been lost since 1999 in Ituri, adding to the three-million who died in Congo's civil war that officially ended in July.
Overall, some five-thousand peacekeepers are to be deployed in Ituri by the end of the year.
Wednesday's violence comes only days after several clashes between rival ethnic Hema militias only few kilometers from Bunia. U-N troops intervened to separate the fighters.
Bunia has been declared a no weapons town, as has a 60 kilometer radius around the city, but UN troops have not been able to bring violence under control in the bush lands outside Bunia. Militia leaders have been dragging their feet in disclosing the number and whereabouts of the troops, as required under the agreed disarmament process.