United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Wednesday urged the U.N. Security Council to consider new measures to protect civilians in Congo, where more than 150 villagers were raped by rebel groups in late July.

Mr. Ban called the rape and assault of at least 154 Congolese civilians another grave example of the levels of sexual violence and insecurity that continue to plague eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He told the Security Council he is compelled to ask what more can be done to protect civilians.

"Last year, I met some of the victims of these appalling crimes of sexual violence in eastern DRC. Women and children should not have to live in fear of rape. Communities should not suffer the indignity of knowing that human rights abusers and war criminals can continue to behave with impunity. We must speak out and we must act," he said.

The United Nations says U.N. peacekeepers based near the villages where the attacks against civilians took place were not aware of the assaults until two weeks later, on August 12, when they were informed by a medical worker.

Speaking to reporters from Goma in eastern DRC, Roger Meece - the Secretary-General's special representative in the DRC - said a patrol of U.N. peacekeepers stopped in one of the villages on August 2 to arrest a Mai-Mai rebel, but were not told about the attacks.

"They stopped there in part because there was an incident witnessed of apparent Mai-Mai attempted robbing of a person on a motorcycle. They stopped that from happening, arrested the Mai-Mai, took him into custody and did have contact with the people of the village at that time. But the village people did not make any reports of what had happened in the preceding days," he said.

Meece said the attacks in the villages are particularly horrific because of their scale and brutality. But he said the many victims of violence and predatory behavior by armed groups in the area for many years should not be forgotten