New York - The United Nations on Thursday rejected accusations from a governor in the Democratic Republic of Congo that five civilians had been killed in a UN helicopter attack against rebel fighters this week.
After conducting a fact-finding mission on the ground and visiting a hospital, the UN mission in the DRC said it "does not believe that reports that five civilians were killed are accurate", said the UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
The Monusco force carried out a helicopter-backed raid on rebels on Monday in the villages of Musanga and Minova in eastern DRC in which one combatant was killed, Dujarric said.
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The raids were targeted at the Nduma Defense of Congo group, blamed for setting villages on fire in the region in recent days.
Governor Julien Paluku of North Kivu province told AFP by phone that he had met with "a delegation" that had visited the scene.
"The delegation confirms that Monusco pounded a village essentially made up of civilians" and "as of today... five civilians were killed", he said.
Context behind the incident
A member of the delegation, Rumbo Buna Theophile, who heads a local organisation, told AFP that the residents of Musanga village reported eight men hit by shrapnel, with four of them dead.
He said Monusco had provided no explanation for the attack "in this place where there were no... combatants".
The mission's fact-finding team collected abandoned weapons from the area, said Dujarric.
He added that "the target was armed combatants and that the operation was conducted in conformity with its mandate and rules of engagement."
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Governor Paluku said he was calling urgent talks between Monusco and regional authorities to clarify why the village had been hit given that local authorities said there had been no violence by rebels in the area.
Juvenal Munubo, an MP from the region and member of the parliamentary defence committee, said after meeting Monusco's deputy head David Gressly that the mission "must explain the context behind the incident."
The UN spokesperson confirmed that Monusco officials were in contact with Congolese officials in Kinshasa and Goma to discuss the incident.
The United Nations has 22 000 peacekeepers serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Monusco force, the largest UN mission in the world.