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Hutu Militia Continue Attacks In North Kivu

The U.N. refugee agency reports attacks by the Hutu rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, are still causing displacement over a wide area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province.

Over the past months Congolese and Rwandan forces have been engaged in a joint offensive against the Hutu militia in Congo's North Kivu province. Their aim was to flush the rebels out of their jungle hideouts and neutralize them as a threat to Rwanda's national security.

But, the military operation did not work. Shortly after the Congolese and Rwandan armies withdrew from North Kivu, the Hutu rebels came back.

U.N. refugee spokesman, Ron Redmond, says the Hutu have been retaliating against the civilian population. He says they have launched sporadic attacks on villages in the area.

"In Lubero territory of North Kivu, fresh attacks on civilians by the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) have displaced nearly 30,000 people over the past two weeks according to local authorities," Redmond said. "The newly displaced families in the Lubero area report that the FDLR raids increased during the first half of March, along with growing human rights violations. UNHCR is reinforcing its activities in the Masisi region and elsewhere and we are trying to establish a presence in Lubero so we can get swift aid to the displaced."

Redmond says the Hutu militia also is mounting attacks in the Masisi territory. He says they killed at least three civilians there a few days ago. As a consequence of these attacks, he says many frightened civilians have fled their villages and sought refuge in Masisi town.

Local authorities in Kikoma, which is 74 kilometers south of Masisi town, also report that villagers are fleeing in all directions, following Hutu attacks on March 16. Congolese authorities in Masisi say the rebel group is threatening to continue these attacks.

Redmond says most of the displaced are spending their nights in the bush for fear of attacks and harassment. The UNHCR reports the fighting by the Hutu rebels has left more than 160,000 civilians displaced since mid-January.