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UN says Congolese refugees fleeing to South Sudan
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Jan 28, 2009 - 7:27:41 AM

UN says Congolese refugees fleeing to South Sudan

GENEVA (AP) Thousands of Congolese civilians have fled across the border to South Sudan to escape rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

About 2,000 left northeastern Congo for the Sudanese village of Lasu last week alone, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Thousands more Congolese are already living in South Sudan, having fled their villages for fear of attacks by the Uganda-based rebel group, Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

The population in South Sudan is unable to support all the refugees, so the World Food Program plans to deliver emergency rations to the area, Redmond said.

The Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, has terrorized villagers in northeastern Congo for months, accusing them of collaborating with Sudanese, Ugandan and Congolese government forces attempting to flush out the rebel group.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 600 civilians have been slain by the Lord's Resistance Army in the past month.

"The violations committed by the LRA are grotesque," the U.N.'s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Tuesday.

Her Geneva-based office said the rebels are accused of conducting large-scale kidnappings and rapes, as well as forced recruitment of children.

Pillay also warned that a joint operation by Congolese and Rwandan government forces against another rebel group, the FDLR, further south could endanger civilians.

Thousands of Rwandan troops have massed in eastern Congo in recent days in preparation to help disarm the FDLR. The group is composed of Hutu rebels originally from Rwanda who have been operating in Congo for 14 years.

Aid agencies have dramatically scaled up their operations in eastern Congo since the summer to deal with the large number of civilians driven from their homes by the fighting.

On Tuesday the U.N. children's fund asked for $115.5 million to fund its work in Congo, its second-biggest emergency operation after Sudan, which includes the Darfur region.

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