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300,000 flee North-East Congo

UN refugee agency, UNHCR said on Tuesday that more than 300,000 people had reportedly fled their homes in North-east Congo since early June as violence flared up again between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch made this known at a news conference in Geneva.

He said, “We are gravely concerned for the safety of civilians after receiving reports of killings, kidnappings, maiming and sexual violence being unleashed against people.’’

The UN agency has received reports from local sources in 125 locations in Ituri province but has currently no access to most of the affected areas.

Attacks between the two communities had already uprooted many people in late 2017 and early 2018, however the situation had calmed down since then.

The current mass displacement is happening in three of Ituri’s five administrative units: Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu.

“There is a risk that the violence could spill over to engulf large parts of the province,’’ Baloch said.

He cited reports that the military has stepped in to calm the situation in Djugu, where both communities have apparently formed self-defence groups and have committed revenge killings.

Eastern Congo is beset by various crises, including an Ebola outbreak.

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