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Militia Disarmament Deadline Extended in DRC

United Nations and Congolese officials have extended the deadline to disarm for militias in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The disarmament program, extended until July 15, lets militia members voluntarily surrender and enter the army or reintegrate into civil society.

The program was originally set to end June 30. But U.N. sources say up to 250 combatants from the restive Ituri province have been arriving every day to give up their weapons and begin the demobilization process.

Meanwhile, a U.N. pilot was injured Thursday when his helicopter drew fire as he flew over the DRC's Ituri province. Seven passengers aboard were unharmed. The crew was dropping leaflets asking combatants to join the disarmament program.

The U.N. says after July 15 it will begin new military operations against the remaining militia.

An ethnic conflict between the Hema and Lendu communities in Congo's northeastern Ituri region has continued since the country's 2003 peace accord.

The central African country is slated to hold its first free election less than a month from now, on July 30.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.