GOMA, 3 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Soldiers of the integrated Congolese national army began their crackdown on militiamen in the northeastern district of Ituri on Tuesday when they deployed to the territory of Aru, 300 km north of Bunia town, a military official told IRIN.
"Their job is to track down the armed bands who continue to sow insecurity in Ituri," Gen Jean Bivegete, a military adviser in the Ministry of Defence, said.
He added that others had been deployed to Ariwara, 40 km south of Aru.
"In Aru and Ariwara the population received the soldiers with scenes of jubilation," Jean Drakana, the administrator of Aru, told IRIN.
A few days ago militiamen loyal to Jerome Kakwavu who, Drakana said, was currently in the nation's capital, Kinshasa, controlled the area.
"Most of the militias fled when the soldiers of the integrated brigade arrived," he said.
Also on Tuesday, 3,000 former militiamen arrived in the military training centre of Mushaki, 40 km southeast of Goma, where members of various former rebel armies are merged into a single force, Gen Gabriel Amisi, commander of the 8th Military Region of the newly integrated Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"The men came from the 5th Brigade of the former Mayi-Mayi movement, which before was based in Bweremana in the territory of Masisi, about 40 km southeast of Goma," Amisi told IRIN on Wednesday. "Others come from the former Armee de liberation du Congo of Jean-Pierre Bemba. After the merger, the soldiers will form the 83rd Brigade. More will arrive [for] the operation in Mushaki - about 8,000 men."
The soldiers are due to spend 45 days in the camp to get acquainted before undergoing joint military training.
Amisi said the integration centre in Mushaki was secured by a contingent of UN peacekeepers from India and by the Congolese National Police.
"A similar operation is currently under way in the integration centre Nyaleke in Beni," he said. "The operation there involves one brigade of the former Mayi-Mayi and a battalion from the former Armee nationale congolaise of the former rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) movement, in Goma."
In the course of a morale-lifting celebration for the newly merged troops, Amisi promised to demobilise 75 child soldiers, 18 of them female.
"I will hand them over to organisations that are specialised in the return of child soldiers to their families," he said.