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UN Says Civilians Massacred in Congo Amid Peace Talks

The United Nations Mission in Congo says it has evidence rebels killed around 30 civilians in eastern Congo in an incident in mid-January. The region, a long-standing site of instability in Congo, was then in the midst of peace talks between rebels and the government. Naomi Schwarz has more from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar and additional reporting by Eddy Isango.

U.N. spokesman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kemal Saiki, says forces led by rebel general Laurent Nkunda brutally killed civilians in January.

"We have learned of a very serious incident where about 30 civilians have been killed by CNDP forces on the 16th and the 17th of January," said Saiki.

The killings occurred in and around Kalonge, around 100 kilometers west of Goma, which is the capital of the conflict-ridden North Kivu province.

The CNDP denies involvement.

The U.N.'s Saiki also accuses the Congolese Army of serious human rights violations.

"We have also information about summary execution this time of civilians also by the members second Congolese Armed Forces Integrated Brigade," he said.

The U.N. says they have positively identified eight victims, including three children. They say the deaths occurred on January 2 in a village near Goma. The government could not be reached for comment.

Despite the official end of the DRC's civil war in 2003, conflict has raged on in this part of the country. Nearly half-a-million residents fled in 2007 because of ongoing violence. A ceasefire was agreed to on January 23 by the warring factions, including Nkunda, other rebel militias and the government.

But fighting has continued. This week nearly 30 were wounded at a military camp in clash between Congolese soldiers and rebel fighters waiting to be integrated into the army.

Saiki says the huma rights violations are typical of the conflict in the region.

"It is unfortunately a continuation of a very sad tradition of human rights violations that we have seen in this part of the Congo for many years now," he said.

In late January, the U.N. Mission reinforced its peacekeeping troops in eastern Congo.