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Aid groups alarmed by DRC rape numbers

  |   March 1, 2011 at 12:31 PM
BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 1 (UPI) -- French aid group Doctors Without Borders said it has treated more than 200 people for rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January.

DRC Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutware was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison in February of ordering troops to beat and rape victims as a weapon of war. Lighter charges were filed against five of his deputies.

A report by U.N. human rights officials and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the DRC found that at least 35 women were raped and 32 people were injured by Congolese troops in early January.

Doctors Without Borders said sexual violence as a weapon of war is common in the region but concentrated reports in the South Kivu region of the DRC are unusual. Most of the rapes were recorded in mid-February, the group said.

Witness accounts said armed members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, were behind the sexual violence. The FDLR is linked to the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Annemarie Loof, the regional director for Doctors Without Borders, told the United Nations' humanitarian news agency IRIN, that rapes in the region were occurring with "alarming regularity."

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in the DRC said it was stepping up its presence in the area. At least 8,000 rapes were reported by humanitarian agencies in the DRC in 2010.

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