A deadly firefight between rival armed militia erupted in Bunia - the main city of the embattled Ituri district in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) - once again leaving a trail of dead and wounded, according to a United Nations spokesman in New York.
The renewed fighting erupted yesterday afternoon between the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front, with at least two dead, and five wounded, spokesman Fred Eckhard said at a press briefing. He added that military observers from the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) continue to patrol in Bunia.
"The UPC released a statement on the radio this morning, asking all internally displaced persons currently seeking shelter with the UN mission to return to their homes," Mr. Eckhard said. "If they did not, the UPC has threatened to forcibly remove them from the UN premises." Thousands of people have sought refuge inside the local UN compound, at the airport and in the heart of town.
"The UN and its humanitarian partners have strongly condemned the statement, and see any such attempt as a contravention of international law and humanitarian norms," Mr. Eckhard said.
The hospital in Bunia was attacked on Saturday night. A number of refrigerators storing vaccines and medicines were removed. Only two of the refrigerators have been returned so far, seriously hampering the vaccination efforts of the humanitarian agencies.
Meanwhile, after a visit to Bunia on Sunday, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno met yesterday in Kampala with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who pledged to extend cooperation to MONUC in bringing an end to fighting in Bunia.
The UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Caroline McAskie, was also in Bunia on Sunday to review the humanitarian situation there.