15 people killed by Rwandan militia in night raid on Congo villages

A Rwandan militia killed 15 civilians with machetes and knives in a nighttime raid on two villages in Congo's mountainous east, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.

Some 25 Rwandan, ethnic Hutu rebels infiltrated through Congolese army lines Sunday night and murdered the villagers, said Kemal Saiki, the chief U.N. spokesman in Congo. An estimated 10,000 or more Hutu rebels remain in Congo, more than a week after the passing of a Congolese government ultimatum for all foreign armed groups to leave the country. President Joseph Kabila said foreign fighters - mostly extremist Rwandan militiamen, but also Burundian and Ugandan rebels - should leave or face Congo army troops backed by U.N. peacekeepers. Extremist ethnic Hutus known as Interahamwe blamed for Rwanda's 1994 genocide have contributed to continued bloodletting in the lawless east since the war ended. They fear harsh penalties if they return to Rwanda. Living in remote forest bases in the lawless east for more than a decade and preying on local residents, the Rwandan militias have been notoriously difficult to dislodge, the AP reports. Poorly paid and ill-trained Congolese troops have not managed to hunt them down. Better trained Rwandan army troops who have invaded Congo twice since 1996, ostensibly in search of Rwandan rebels, have also failed. Despite peace deals that ended Congo's 1998-2002 war, the country's eastern borderlands have remained restive, with killings, looting and rapes still frequent. A.M.

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