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Congolese Militia Beheads Dozens of Police Officers

Uruguayan peacekeepers in Congo this month. Mounting accusations of violence against civilians and the discovery of mass graves in the Kasai-Central province have prompted the chief of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo to urge the U.N. Security Council to press the government to open an investigation. CreditAaron Ross/Reuters

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Members of a militia ambushed and then beheaded about 40 police officers on Friday in a central province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said on Saturday.

In recent months, the provinces in the Kasai region, in south-central Congo, have been the scene of fighting between the police and a local tribal militia called Kamuina Nsapu. Violence in the area has claimed more than 300 lives since August and displaced more than 200,000 people.

Military authorities reported on Friday that they had lost contact with a police convoy from the capital, Kinshasa, that was making its way toward Kananga, southeast of the capital.

François Kalamba, the speaker of the Kasai provincial assembly, confirmed on Saturday that the convoy had been ambushed by Kamuina Nsapu fighters between the city of Tshikapa and Kananga, and that about 40 officers had been decapitated.

The central region of the country is particularly volatile because of an insurgency, with frequent clashes between militia fighters and the military and security forces, despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers. Civilians are often caught up in the violence.

Last week, the Congolese military’s auditor general announced that seven officers had been arrested and charged with war crimes after a video surfaced last month depicting soldiers shooting a group of civilians in Kasai-Central Province, a massacre that left at least 13 dead.

At least five other videos that appear to show members of Congo’s military shooting civilians are now also circulating on social networking platforms

Amid the mounting accusations of violence against civilians, and the discovery of 10 mass graves dug in January and February in Kasai-Central, the chief of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo urged the United Nations Security Council this week to press the government to open an investigation into possible human rights violations. Some elected leaders and human rights advocates in Congo have called for an independent international inquiry.

This month, two United Nations officials — an American and a Swede — were among six people abducted in the Kasai-Central Province by unknown assailants.

Some insurgents, however, are reportedly surrendering to the authorities. Justin Milongo, the deputy governor of Kasai-Central Province, said on Saturday that 400 Kamuina Nsapu militia fighters had “laid down their arms” in Kananga and were being detained.


(C) 2017 The New York Times

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