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7 Congo Army Officers Charged With War Crimes in Massacre

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Seven Congolese Army officers have been arrested and charged with war crimes after a video surfaced last month that appeared to show uniformed soldiers opening fire on a group of civilians in a massacre that left at least 13 people dead, the military’s auditor general said on Saturday.

The video depicts a squad of soldiers gunning down a group of people, which included women and possibly children, in Congo’s Kasaï-Central Province. Most of the victims were unarmed, though a few men appeared to be holding slingshots. Several analysts who saw the video said that it revealed a government-sponsored massacre of civilians and that the video could be used as evidence of war crimes.

“In connection with this video, we have found seven suspects, all are F.A.R.D.C. elements, who are currently in detention,” said the auditor general, Gen. Joseph Ponde Isambwa, using an abbreviation for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The officers, he said, had been charged with several crimes including “war crime by murder, war crime by mutilation, war crimes by cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of an offense committed by persons subject to military jurisdiction.”

Among those arrested was Sgt. Maj. Maneno Katembo, a rifleman who is believed to have recorded the video.

Congo has a history of government-led atrocities, including gang rapes and the slaughtering of civilians.

The government initially labeled the video a hoax, before reversing itself and ordering the officers’ arrest. The country is nearly lawless, and the government forces are known to be brutal, underpaid and among the most dreaded.

On Monday, two United Nations officials — an American and a Swede — were kidnapped along with four Congolese also in Kasaï-Central Province.

On Saturday, the United Nations mission in Kinshasa released a statement expressing concern over reports of renewed fighting in the restive region.


(c) 2017 The New York Times

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