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U.N. combats mass rapes in Congo

NEW YORK, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A United Nations official says a number of steps are being taken by peacekeepers to combat sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Atul Khare, assistant secretary-general of peacekeeping operations, told the U.N. Security Council in New York that a show of force to protect civilians has been instituted in North Kivu province where the latest mass rapes took place.

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During July and August, about 500 women were raped in eastern Congo, the victims of rebel militias and government troops.

Khare said more than 15,000 rapes were reported in both 2008 and 2009.

The latest incidents included 10 rapes carried out in August by government soldiers, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Security Council will remain focused on the issue to try to better understand the underlying causes.

The rapes occurred in villages near transit routes for the trade in illegally extracted minerals.

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