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Tue, 30 Nov 2010 16:14 - Updated Tue, 30 Nov 2010 16:13

UN says Congo armed groups forming criminal gangs


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Kinshasa - Armed groups in eastern Congo, including the army, have bypassed international reform programs and have instead formed criminal networks to exploit the nation's mineral wealth, with one group even trying to sell uranium, the United Nations said in a report Monday.

The report said the armed units have done so despite recent efforts to disarm illegal militias and reform the disorganized, ill-disciplined army. The report said the army has even formed a criminal gang within its ranks.

Investigators cited several examples of militants illegally exploiting minerals and natural resources, seizing land, recruiting child soldiers and poaching endangered wildlife.

The report said Rwandan-led Hutu rebels in Congo in 2008 attempted to sell six canisters of what they said was unenriched uranium an amount that the report said would not be enough to create even a small amount of fissile material but could not find a buyer for more than a year and gave up.

At U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday, the Security Council renewed its arms embargo for people and groups not associated with the government, along with a travel ban and a freeze on the assets of people linked to illegal armed groups.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice welcomed the extension of the sanctions, which she said "can play an important role in bringing stability to the (Congo) and holding accountable those who direct the massacre of civilians, recruit child soldiers, or use rape as a weapon of war."