Acquitted ex-militia boss touches down in DR Congo

Kinshasa (AFP) - Ex-militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui on Monday arrived back in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a failed Dutch asylum attempt following his acquittal by the International Criminal Court earlier this year.

Ngudjolo arrived in Kinshasa's international airport escorted by five European police officers before leaving surrounded by friends and family, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

The 44-year-old former leader of the Nationalist Integrationist Front (FNI) militia was the first person ever to be tried and acquitted by The Hague-based ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, in February.

He was accused of war crimes for playing a commanding role in a 2003 attack by ethnic Lendu forces on Bogoro village in the vast country's restive northeastern Ituri region in which more than 200 villagers were slaughtered.

Ngudjolo had applied to stay in the Netherlands due to fears for his safety but Dutch authorities dismissed his application.

"I can confirm that Mr Ngudjolo Chui has been deported from the Netherlands and sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo this afternoon," Justice Ministry spokesman Jaap Oosterveer told AFP.

Resource-rich eastern Ituri has been the scene of terrible clashes between rival militias which cost more than 60,000 lives between 1999 and 2007.

Ngudjolo helped to negotiate a peace deal with Kinshasa in exchange for his promotion to the rank of colonel in the Congolese army in 2006, just months before he was arrested.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said they "and others will be looking to the Congolese authorities to ensure Mathieu Ngudjolo's safety and security".