Soldiers serving in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo have again been accused of sexual abuse.  The peacekeeping mission says it has opened an investigation into reports some blue helmets were involved in a child prostitution ring in the east of the country.

  The United Nations has launched a special investigation into allegations that some of its peacekeepers in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo are involved in a child prostitution ring.

According to testimony given to the United Nations, girls have been lured by pimps to settle and work as prostitutes in areas of South Kivu province where peacekeepers and government soldiers have been deployed to try to stabilize the fragile east.

Most of the clients appear to have been Congolese government soldiers, but the girls said peacekeepers were also involved in the sexual exploitation.

The mission said it was shocked and was taking the allegations very seriously.  U.N. officials say there is a zero tolerance policy on the issue of sexual exploitation, and they will help Congolese authorities put an end to the prostitution ring.

This is not the first time the U.N. peacekeeping mission, numbering more than 17,000 troops, has been embroiled in a sex scandal.

The mission imposed a non-fraternization policy last year, after investigators found some civilian and military personnel guilty of rape and pedophilia.  Some peacekeepers exchanged food and money for sex with locals.

But follow-up reports have been critical of the failure to eradicate a problem that has existed in peacekeeping missions for decades, but was never dealt with properly.

The U.N. mission in Congo has just helped organize and oversee the July 30 elections, the first free polls in Congo in more than 40 years.  They are intended to end a decade of war and chaos that has killed millions of civilians.