Militia terror force thousands to flee

GANGS of militia have attacked five villages in south-eastern Congo, raping girls as young as eight years old and forcing more than 1,000 people to flee, a UN official said yesterday.

Gunmen from the Mayi-Mayi militia attacked the villages in Katanga province over the past two weeks, burning houses, looting crops and raping 15 women and girls, said Anne Edgerton, an official with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The spate of rapes took place May 25 in the fishing village of Sonsa located about 220 kilometres south-west of the Lake Tanganyika town of Kalemie following a disagreement between the village's 100 residents and their local chief, Ms Edgerton said.

The chief called in the local police, who were accompanied by scores of Mayi-Mayi militia, who began rampaging the village, Ms Edgerton said.

Residents said militia raped at least eight girls under 15 years old, including some as young as eight. The eight girls are still missing, believed to be hiding in the bush or kidnapped by militia.

The residents fled 60km south to Monono, where they arrived totally naked after militia stripped them of their clothing to prevent them from running fast. The UN is sending a humanitarian team to Monono to assist the villagers.

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