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Thu, 04 Aug 2011 13:14 - Updated Thu, 04 Aug 2011 13:14

DR Congo colonel arrested for mineral trafficking: army

South Kivu

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South Kivu - Officials arrested a colonel in the Democratic Republic of Congo as he was smuggling a convoy of minerals in the east of the country, the army told AFP Wednesday.

"Colonel Balumisa Chuma was caught red-handed with 10 tonnes of cassiterite (tin ore) on Monday at 6:00 am (0700 GMT)," Colonel Vianney Kazarama, the army's spokesman for Operation Amani Leo (Peace Today) said.

His arrest took place in the eastern province of South Kivu and was organised in cooperation with the mining ministry there.

Chuma, the commander of the Walikale sector, was arrested in Goma, the regional capital of neighbouring Nord Kivu province, with 12 other soldiers, as they were transporting the rare mineral from South Kivu.

"He'd been doing this trafficking for a long time because he felt his rank, his position, covered him," said Kazarama.

While the other, lower-ranking soldiers would not be pursued, Chuma would be appearing before a military court, he added.

Army officers are forbidden from any involvement in mining operations.

But campaigners have regularly accused rebel groups, local militia and soldiers of involvement in the illegal exploitation of the region's vast mineral resources, in the Nord and Sud Kivu provinces and Maniema.

A Senate report said that at the end of 2009, 80 percent of mineral exports were going through outside state control in these three provinces.

These areas are particularly rich in cassiterite and coltan, both used by the electronics industry, as well as gold.