Demonstrators attack U.N. peacekeepers in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo: Villagers angry with the United Nations' role in ending the conflict in eastern Congo attacked a convoy of U.N. vehicles Wednesday, injuring two peacekeepers and setting a car on fire.

An angry mob surrounded the convoy of five bulletproof cars, said U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich. The convoy was on its way through Rutshuru, a lawless area where just last week the Congolese army fought one of its fiercest battles against the fighters of a local warlord.

Two Indian peacekeepers were injured. U.N. security forces shot in the air and one demonstrator was hurt by a falling bullet, Dietrich said.

The U.N. peacekeepers are trying to uphold a January cease-fire that was signed between the government and the rebels of warlord Laurent Nkunda. One of their tasks is to create a buffer zone between areas controlled by the army and areas controlled by rebels.

In Rutshuru, demonstrators say they do not want the army to pull back in order to create the buffer zone.

"We are protesting ... because we cannot accept that Congo's armed forces which moved in to push out the rebels are now going to retreat and take up their previous positions in order to create this buffer zone as (the U.N. peacekeepers) are asking," said 26-year-old Jean-Claude Ngirabavieyi, one of the demonstrators reached by phone.

Congo's government has struggled to contain the rebellion in its remote east, located hundreds of miles away from the capital, Kinshasa, across a terrain covered in thick jungle.

Numerous armed groups have taken up positions in the forested hills and despite the recent cease-fire continue to spar over territory, causing a hemorrhaging of the local population, many of whom have fled their villages for the relative security of larger towns.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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