Sat, Sep 04, 2010 - Page 6 News List

DRC rapes number 242

SIXTEEN TO 75 UN officials said peacekeepers did not know about the rapes during the four-day attack, but leaks show they were aware of one the day they started

NY Times News Service, KAMPALA, Uganda

The number of rape victims from a four-day rebel attack in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a month ago has risen to more than 240 and will likely go higher, aid officials said on Thursday.

Giorgio Trombatore, a director of the aid group International Medical Corps, said investigators working in eastern DRC’s North Kivu Province had so far “counted 242 cases individually, one by one.”

On July 30, hundreds of members of Rwandan and Congolese rebel groups occupied villages in the Walikale region of North Kivu, assaulting their victims in groups of two to six.

Countering reports from the area that some victims were male infants, Trombatore said that all were female and that the youngest was 16 years old and the oldest 75.

Thousands of women, and hundreds of men, have been sexually assaulted by the various armed groups warring in the region.

Officials with the aid group have said that the rebels — members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and the Mai Mai — left the villages on Aug. 3, and that later that day a local administrator alerted aid organizations in the area to the mass rapes.

Rebels from the same groups were suspected of attacking workers with the International Medical Corps on Wednesday after the workers landed by helicopter in Walikale, forcing the aid workers to escape into the surrounding forest.

Trombatore said on Thursday that all the aid workers had been rescued and were safe.

Since the UN first publicly reported the mass rapes on Aug. 22, questions have arisen over how much the organization knew about the attacks as they were under way.

UN officials have said the peacekeepers did not know about the rapes until Aug. 12.

However, a leaked UN e-mail dated July 30 shows that officials there were aware that the rebels had taken over one of the villages and raped one woman within the first day of the attack.

By Aug. 10, the UN was aware that at least 25 women had been raped, according to another UN bulletin, published online.

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