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Congo Sentences UN Driver for Smuggling Minerals

A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced a United Nations driver to three years in prison for attempting to illegally export minerals.

Court officials say the driver, Julien Mukala, also was fined $25,000 in the court verdict, issued late Wednesday.

Mukala was accused of trying to smuggle 1,200 kilograms of the tin oxide mineral cassiterite into neighboring Rwanda. Authorities say he was driving a U.N. jeep when he was stopped in eastern Congo's North Kivu province on Sunday.

Prosecutors say Mukala claimed that someone else put the 24 bags of minerals in the jeep.

Mukala is an employee of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo. The mission has said it is working to stop minerals trafficking and that such activity will not be tolerated.

The rich mines of eastern Congo have fueled conflict in the area for years.

Rebel and militia groups battle the government for control of the mines and the money they produce.

The government has struggled to seize full control of eastern Congo, nearly a decade after the end of the country's civil war.

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