News / Africa

UN Sets Up DRC Security Zone

FILE - M23 rebels sit in a vehicle as they withdraw from the eastern Congo town of Goma, Dec. 2012.
FILE - M23 rebels sit in a vehicle as they withdraw from the eastern Congo town of Goma, Dec. 2012.
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U.N. forces have established a security zone in two eastern Congolese cities to rid the area of what they call "unauthorized weapons."

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Thursday that the goal of the zone is to provide better protection to the more than one million civilians living in the city of Goma and nearby Sake, including internally placed persons.

On Tuesday, the U.N. mission in Congo said it was giving people in the zone who were not part of the national security forces 48 hours to hand in their weapons.  

It said any civilians with weapons after the deadline would be considered an "imminent threat" and U.N. peacekeepers would take measures to disarm them.

In a statement Thursday, U.N. officials say the security zone is not an offensive operation and does not target any armed group.

The zone is being set up after a series of attacks against the Congolese army by M23 rebels.  The U.N. has said indiscriminate fire during these attacks has caused civilian casualties.

The group is one of many militia and rebel groups operating in Congo's North Kivu province, fighting for political power and control of the region's rich mines.

Nesirky said as part of the security effort, U.N. and Congolese security forces "will continue patrols to ensure that the region is free of unauthorized weapons."

The M23 briefly took control of Goma last year and still controls parts of North Kivu province.

The group is made up of former rebels who were integrated into the Congolese army in a 2009 peace agreement.  The rebels later deserted the army, complaining of discrimination and poor treatment.

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