BUNIA, 24 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Some 280 militiamen have withdrawn from the village of Katoto, in the northeastern district of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the face of advancing government troops, a senior military officer said on Friday.
The officer, who asked not to be identified, said the militiamen withdrew to the village of Loga, about 5 km southwest of Katoto, as a company of government infantrymen entered the village. The government troops were backed by a platoon of Pakistani troops from the United Nations and armoured cars. The militiamen, thought to be former demobilised militiamen from the community, had attacked Katoto on Wednesday armed with AK-47 assault rifles and antitank rockets. Another military officer said some young residents of Katoto had joined the militiamen in attacking the small army garrison at the village.
Modibo Traoré, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ituri District, said Katoto was now under army control. One of the displaced, Christophe Mateso, said some of Katoto's residents had fled to Mboga and Mandro, respectively 6 km southwest and 10 km south of their village. Others, like Mateso, had fled to Bunia, the largest town in Ituri. The militiamen are thought to be members of the Mouvement révolutionnaire Congolais, led in this sector by Ngujolo Chui, the former leader of the Lendu militia, known as the Front National Integrationiste.
Recently, militiamen have attacked several army positions in Ituri. Earlier on Friday, they attacked Kasenyi Nyamavi, 55 km south of Bunia. On Monday, they ambushed government troops at Katoni and Kagaba, respectively 15 km and 55 km south of Bunia. On 18 March, they also attacked the village of Kahwa, some 60 km southeast of Bunia, where they had killed nine UN Bangladeshi troops in 2005.