Militia frees six soldiers in east DR Congo: army

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A soldier of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) takes cover during exchanges of fire with members of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) in Opira, North Kivu, on January 25, 2018. © AFP - ALAIN WANDIMOYI
A soldier of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) takes cover during exchanges of fire with members of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) in Opira, North Kivu. © AFP – ALAIN WANDIMOYI

A militia in the troubled east of DR Congo has freed six soldiers it held for three months, the army said Friday.

The move came after several dozen members of the Nyatura militia — one of the scores that operate in the region — surrendered to government forces last week.

President Felix Tshisekedi placed North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province under a “state of siege” on May 6 in a bid to clamp down on the militia groups.

Civilian governors have been replaced by senior army and police officers under the measure.

Jean-Marie Bonane, a self-styled “general” and head of the Nyatura militia, said the soldiers were freed as “a peace gesture”.

The militia claims to defend the interests of ethnic Hutus in North Kivu, but is accused of backing the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a notorious Rwandan Hutu group.

An estimated 120 militia groups operate in the mineral-rich eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars from 1996 to 2003.

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