More than 3,000 people have been killed in eight months of spiraling violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled central region of Kasai, a report by the Roman Catholic church says.
- Reuters picGENEVA, June 20 -The government-backed Bana Mura militia in Congo has committed horrific crimes in ethnically-motivated attacks in the past few months, including cutting off toddlers' limbs and slicing open pregnant women, the United Nations human rights chief said today.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told the U.N. Human Rights Council Tuesday hundreds of villagers had been "shot dead, hacked or burned to death, and mutilated" over the past two months.
He added that teams deployed by his Office (OHCHR) witnessed children as young as two, whose limbs had been chopped off, and babies with machete wounds and severe wounds.
Ten of the villages were destroyed by the security forces, four by militias and six by "unknown actors", the church said.
The UN had previously said hundreds died in the violence.
The UN Human Rights Council is likely to vote this week on whether to mandate an independent investigation into the violence following what the group's commissioner described as horrific atrocities committed in Kasai province.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Church officials cited their own sources on the bloodshed in the central Kasai region, stemming from the conflict between anti-government militia and the government's army.
The Catholic Church, one of the most respected institutions in the sprawling resource-rich country, said in a report issued in the capital Kinshasa that 3,383 people had been killed, 20 villages "completely destroyed", 3,698 other houses destroyed and 34 houses of worship damaged or closed.
Some 42 mass graves have been documented.
One two-month-old baby seen by Hussein's team had been hit by two bullets four hours after birth while at least two pregnant women were sliced open and their foetuses mutilated.
The Congolese authorities have said they would reject it.
Congolese army spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga didn't answer his phone when Bloomberg called seeking comment.
At times, Zeid said, victims recounted that Congolese troops and police "have accompanied some Bana Mura attacks" and some "state agents" were involved in directing and arming the militia.
Congolese Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba rejected the call for an global investigation, saying it would be unacceptable to launch such an investigation without including Congolese officials.
Fighting surged in Kasai in August when the army killed a chief who had been calling for central government forces to quit the region, saying it should be left to local leaders. "It would be as if we were not an independent country", Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told reporters in Geneva.