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UN Sees Possible War Crimes in Eastern Congo

The United Nations says it is likely both government and rebel forces have committed war crimes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two U.N. reports released Wednesday say most of the transgressions took place last October and November as Congo's army battled the CNDP, an ethnic Tutsi militia.

The alleged crimes include arbitrary murders, rapes and pillaging of towns and villages.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the reports.

Meanwhile, hundreds of former eastern rebels have deserted the Congolese army. A renegade battalion led by a former rebel commander known as Jaguar abandoned their posts late last week.

Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo said issues with salary played a role in the desertion.

The ex-rebels looted Kitcharo, a village in North Kivu province.

Congolese army officers describe the incident as an act of indiscipline, and say the problem is being sorted out.

Congo's government is still trying to assert control over North Kivu more than six years after the end of a bloody civil war.

Rebel groups and militias continue to operate in the area despite repeated attempts by the army and U.N. forces to stabilize the region. Efforts to integrate rebels into the armed forces have been only partially successful.