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At Least 16 Civilians Killed in Congo - 2003-10-10

The U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed the killing of at least 16 civilians, mostly women and children, north of the town of Uvira in the province of south Kivu, near the border with Burundi. The United Nations says it suspects the perpetrators to be fighters of the Burundian extremist Hutu FDD, Force for the Defense of Democracy group.

U.N. officials in the town of Uvira confirmed on Friday the killing of 16 civilians, mostly women and children, about 40 kilometers north of the town, which lies on the Burundian border. They discovered the bodies on Wednesday.

Officials said they believed the attacks were carried out by members of the FDD Burundian extremist Hutu rebel group, which has been a thorn in the side of the new government in Burundi, and a threat to peace and stability in eastern Congo.

The news comes only days after 65 civilians were reported killed in Ituri province in northeastern Congo, near the Ugandan border, some 600 kilometers north of Uvira. There, the conflict has so far claimed over 50,000 lives since 1999, mainly due to fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan-backed Lendu and Hema militia.

But while the U.N. mission has recently been beefed up in Ituri, with a final deployment of some 5,000 troops planned, fewer than 2,000 South African peacekeepers are deployed over both north Kivu and south Kivu province, as well as in the central and southern regions of Maniema and Katanga.

The Kivu region has been particularly volatile in recent years. Hutu extremists involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, FDD rebels, Rwandan backed rebels, Mai Mai tribal warriors and various splinter groups and smaller movements are still roaming the hill and forests of the region.