A team from the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has visited the volatile northeastern part of the country to investigate reports of massacres that may have left as many as 1,000 people dead, according to a UN spokesman in New York.
The UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) dispatched a team over the weekend to visit villages around Drodro in the Ituri region to investigate reports of massacres allegedly committed by militias against civilians in the last weeks of March and early April.
"The team found 20 fresh mass graves and interviewed local leaders who reported that up to 960 people may have been killed, allegedly because they refused to support Lendu-based militia offensives," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said. He added that as MONUC continues its investigation, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "deeply disturbed by these reports and demands that all concerned unconditionally respect the basic human rights of innocent civilians."
The spokesman also said that the reported massacres underscored the need for the local leaders to participate fully in the Ituri Pacification Committee, which has been established to find peaceful solutions in this troubled region.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,100 anti-tank and land mines were destroyed on Saturday by Handicap International Experts under the supervision of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre. The destruction, carried out at MONUC's initiative, was the largest since the Mission's deployment.