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DRC army officer named as mass rape leader

FIZI, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- An army commander in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been accused of leading the New Year's Day mass rape of at least 50 women.

A victim and sources quoted in a United Nations report on the incident accused Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutware of leading the rapes in the town of Fizi, the BBC reported Wednesday.

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The army officer denied the charges.

Dr. Faise Chacha, head of Fizi hospital, said he and physicians from Doctors without Borders have treated 51 rape victims so far but expect more as women who fled the attacks return home.

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"I was raped in front of my four children," one victim told the BBC. "I'm ashamed, very ashamed. If I meet two or three people who are having a discussion, I assume they are talking about me, even though it is not the case."

Several people living near the hospital said they saw Mutware ordering troops to attack civilians to avenge their dead comrade. An investigative report sent to Fizi by the U.N. peacekeeping mission and viewed by the BBC also includes accounts by local leaders and police sources accusing Mutware of directing the atrocity.

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Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama, army spokesman for South Kivu province operations, said government soldiers were responsible for the Fizi attack, pledging swift action.

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"All those people who have abused the population have already been arrested. The zero-tolerance policy will be enforced on the spot in Fizi," Kazarama told the BBC.

Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. special representative on sexual violence, called on the DRC government to conduct thorough investigation immediately.

"Impunity for these types of crimes must not be tolerated," Wallstrom said.

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