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U.N. shielding civilians in eastern DRC

Aug. 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo said they were working to protect civilians near its base of operations in the eastern province of North Kivu.

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in DRC, known by its French initials MONUSCO, said it increased patrols and dispatched helicopters to ensure civilians near its eastern base are secured.

"Its peacekeepers are providing security to 1,000 civilians in and around its base," a mission spokesman said in a statement Wednesday.

MONUSCO said fighting between four different armed groups erupted near its base early this week. Three mortars landed near the North Kivu site, though the mission didn't say if there were any casualties.

The latest escalation of conflict followed a visit to the region by U.N. special envoy to DRC Martin Kobler. He pledged to do everything in his power to ensure conflict in the region came to a peaceful resolution.

One of the rebel groups, the March 23 Movement, is suspected of committing war crimes in the region. It seized parts of eastern DRC before retreating under the eye of U.N. peacekeepers.

UNICEF estimates violence in eastern DRC has forced more than 66,000 people, half of whom are children, to flee the country to Uganda.

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