Over 50,000 forced to flee violence in DRC's Ituri region: UNHCR

Children flee the violence in the Ituri region of Congo

GENEVA (AFP) — Intense fighting between the Congolese army and Ugandan rebels have forced over 50,000 people to flee their homes in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's Ituri region, the UN said on Tuesday.

"The fighting broke out in September and has since caused heavy loss of life," said Ron Redmond, the UN refugee agency's spokesman.

Local authorities have claimed that the bodies of 100 civilians were dumped in a river, while 80 children have been reported missing with parents fearing that they had been recruited by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army, added Redmond.

Meanwhile, fresh fighting that broke out at the end of August in the neighbouring province of Nord-Kivu has displaced another 100,000 people.

Aid agencies now estimate that the total number of people forced to flee from the district is around one million.

"Our teams report that thousands of displaced are trapped in the towns further inland, not daring to move for fear of the fighting," said Redmond.

The French EU presidency warned Monday that "huge massacres" could once again take place in DRC.

"We must raise the alarm. The situation is becoming murderous and untenable again. Once more everything is in chaos," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

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