UN peacekeepers under siege in DR Congo: Uruguay
AFP - Saturday, November 1
MONTEVIDEO (AFP) - - Rwanda-backed rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are laying siege to 100 civilians, 150 Indian peacekeepers and half of the Uruguayan peacekeeping force attempting to secure the area, Uruguay Defense Minister Jose Bayardi said.
The rebels troops led by ethnic Tutsi warlord Laurent Nkunda "are backed by tanks" and "artillery" from Rwanda, according to Uruguayan military commander Jorge Rosales, who is overseeing the peacekeeping troops.
Over the last two days the rebels have laid siege to some 300 Uruguayan and 150 Indian peacekeepers, and some 100 UN staff, NGO personnel and local civilians at a UN base in Rutshuru, near Goma, the regional capital in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu.
The rebels also currently surround the city.
The Uruguayan contingent of the UN mission in the country (MONUC) have been under siege "without drinking water for 48 hours," said Bayardi at a press conference at the Command of Peacekeeping Operations in Montevideo.
"Yesterday there was a contact with Nkunda and the water was restored, but the blockade remains and (those inside) are rationing food," he said.
Rosales said it was "not easy to identify rebel forces," but indicated that there is "high probability that troops from Rwanda are operating in the area."
The rebels have also recently attacked camps for people displaced by the conflict, UN officials reported.
"These (rebel) troops are backed by tanks, something that General Nkunda had not had until now," said Rosales.
Uruguayan peacekeeping troops have been attacked with "artillery fire," and, Rosales said, "Nkunda has also not had artillery" until now.
Some 629 Uruguayan peacekeepers are in Goma, along with 700 peacekeepers from India.
Rebel forces are within two kilometers (1.6 miles) from the UN peacekeepers, eight kilometers north of Goma, said Montevideo.
The peacekeeping forces are in the DRC working secure the area and protect civilians, as well as United Nations personnel and facilities.
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