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U.N. blames itself for Congolese rapes

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The efforts of U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo failed to prevent rebel forces from gang-raping hundreds of women, a U.N. investigation found.

A series of U.N. investigations into atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo found more than 500 women were gang-raped allegedly by Rwandan and Congolese rebels.

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The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the area, the largest deployed in the world, deflected criticism that it ignored warnings that surfaced days before the rapes occurred some 20 miles from their base.

Atul Khare, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said his investigation found that while the safety of citizens is the responsibility of the state, failures could be traced to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo.

"Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalization of the population of the villages in the area," he told the U.N. Security Council. "We must do better."

Khare told the Security Council that it should consider targeted sanctions against the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and the Congolese Mai Mai militia for their role in the attacks. The Rwandan rebel force, which is linked to the Rwandan genocide, denied it was involved in the gang rapes that occurred in late July and early August.

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In terms of the peacekeeping force, Khare said operation Show Window was launched last week as a show of force meant to protect civilians in the parts of the Congo where the rapes occurred.

The remote parts of the Congo made patrols difficult, he added, saying the peacekeeping mission was working to boost radio and cellular coverage in the area.

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