Congo residents burn town hall after latest rebel attack

AL-HADJI KUDRA MALIRO

BENI, Congo (AP) — Angry residents of the eastern Congo city of Beni burned the town hall and stormed the United Nations peacekeeping mission Monday after rebels killed eight people and kidnapped nine overnight in their latest assault.

Gunfire could be heard outside the U.N. offices as police and peacekeepers tried to disperse the crowds who attacked the base and burned U.N. vehicles. Residents have been protesting outside the U.N. for several days over repeated attacks by Allied Democratic Forces rebels, and two civilians and two policemen have died in the unrest.

Civil society leader Kizito Bin Hangi said they warned the Congolese army when they saw suspicious activity in the center of town on Sunday but soldiers came too late.

One protester, Kasereka Fundi, suggested the U.N. mission known as MONUSCO should leave if it won’t protect the population.

"What did we do to deserve that, do we not have the same rights as other citizens of Congo?” Fundi said. "We are killed while MONUSCO is here to protect us. Let them go home. We do not need tourists in our country.”

The ADF rebels, who formed in Uganda in 1995, have been blamed for killing more than 1,500 people in the area in the past five years. Numerous rebel groups are active in mineral-rich eastern Congo.

Beni was an early epicenter in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo and the World Health Organization has said rebel attacks hamper the crucial work of containing the virus.

The Congo-based Center for Studies of Peace and Defense of Human Rights in a statement Monday urged calm. It condemned the massacres by ADF rebels as well as the attacks on U.N. facilities.

“While sharing the anger felt by the youth of Beni and the revolt that these terrorist acts provoke, (the center) asks all residents of Beni to remain calm, show restraint and a sense of responsibility so as not to fall into the trap of the enemy,” it said.

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