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Civilians flee Congo as new fighting erupts

GOMA, Congo — More than 10,000 Congolese civilians fled to Uganda in a matter of hours Thursday to escape renewed fighting, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Roberta Russo, spokeswoman in Uganda for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the refugees reported attacks by rebels who launched a fresh offensive in August after years of low-level fighting among armed groups in eastern Congo.

The new refugees bring the number of Congolese who have fled to Uganda since August to more than 27,000.

"They say they have seen many dead bodies on their way to Uganda," Russo told the Associated Press.

All fighters in Congo have been accused of human rights abuses, including government troops.

In New York, the United Nations' top Congo envoy told the Security Council that peacekeepers have opened several investigations into whether war crimes are being committed in eastern Congo, pointing to evidence of targeted killings.

Rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa said the insurgents began an offensive Saturday in the town of Ishasha to expel from Congo some of the perpetrators of Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Ishasha, on Congo's border with Uganda, is about 35 miles northeast of the rebel capital, Rutshuru.

"There is no government army there," Bisimwa said. "There is only (Hutu militiamen). We wanted to secure our population there. We want this (Hutu militia) to leave this area."

War crimes trial: Congolese warlords Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, who are accused of leading militias that killed more than 200 people, pleaded not guilty Thursday at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands, to charges of murder, rape and using child soldiers during an attack on a village in 2003. The pleas came at a pretrial hearing.

Civilians flee Congo as new fighting erupts 11/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:31am]
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