3 civilians killed by rebels in Congo

Rwandan Hutu rebels attacked a truck in eastern Congo, killing at least three people and wounding several others, the United Nations said Wednesday.

U.N.-run Radio Okapi earlier reported the rebels killed 21 people in the attack in the heavily forested Walikale territory, but U.N. spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg said peacekeepers on patrol in the area who responded to the assault initially confirmed only three dead.

Wildenberg said peacekeepers evacuated several wounded civilians from the scene of the attack to a nearby hospital and escorted the truck safely back to a populated village in the region. She said the confirmed death toll was preliminary, however, and she expected to get more information later Wednesday.

Eastern Congo has been wracked by violence since Rwanda's 1994 genocide spilled war across the border. Hutu militias that participated in the massacres of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus sought refuge in Congo.

Walikale has also been the scene of violence and hundreds of mass rapes in recent months, with the U.N. reporting the rape of 303 civilians between July 30 and Aug. 2 alone.

Military operations against the Hutu rebels have forced thousand of rebels out of their strongholds in the east this year.

Wildenberg said that as a result, "we unfortunately keep seeing these kinds of attacks on civilian trucks. The more they are pushed from their strongholds, the more they loot civilian trucks to eat and get some supplies because theirs have been cut off."


Associated Press writer Todd Pitman in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.