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UN Investigates New Accusations of Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers in DRC

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo says it is investigating new allegations of sexual abuse made against its workers.

A mission spokesman said Wednesday the accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse are against peacekeepers stationed in North Kivu province.

He said the mission is deeply concerned by the allegations and that they are being thoroughly investigated by the U.N.'s internal oversight agency, U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services. He gave no further details.

The troops and civilian employees of the U.N. mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, have faced a series of misconduct allegations.

In 2005, the U.N. found that peacekeepers had been having sex with local women in exchange for food and money.

Last month, the BBC reported it had uncovered evidence that Indian and Pakistani U.N. officers traded guns and ammunition for ivory, and gave weapons to militia groups for use in the illegal gold trade.

The BBC also reported a U.N. investigation in 2007 found that at least one U.N. officer was guilty of smuggling gold.

The United Nations has a large presence in Congo with some 17,000 troops backed by more than 1,000 military observers and police. Fighting between government forces and rebel groups has lasted there for more than a decade.

The mission helped oversee the country's 2006 presidential election, which was the nation's first democratic vote in more than 40 years.

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