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UN to reinforce troops in Congo

KINSHASA, Aug 20 – MONUC, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is to get another 3,000 soldiers by the end of October, the force announced Wednesday.

The reinforcement, which will come nearly a year after a resolution was approved by the UN Security Council, will comprise another 2,785 soldiers and 300 police officers.

The new arrivals will include an infantry battalion and a company of special forces from Egypt; an infantry battalion and a company of engineers from Bangladesh; and a special forces company from Jordan.

Most of them will be deployed in the volatile east and northeast of the country, where an estimated 500 members of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) still terrorise the population.

Also present in the zone, despite efforts by Congolese and Rwandan troops to flush them out, are up to 6,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The first troops would arrive by the end of August, with the rest deployed by the end of October, MONUC spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich told AFP.

The newcomers will be boosting an existing force of 17,000 peacekeepers, 700 military observers and more than a thousand police officers, who work closely with the Congolese army in operations against the two rebel groups.

MONUC, on the ground since 2001, is the largest single peacekeeping force deployed by the UN, with an annual budget of 1.35 billion dollars (950 million euros).

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