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Hutu rebels deny any setbacks

NAIROBI, Sep 1 – Rwandan Hutu rebels denied on Tuesday that they had suffered heavy setbacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and derided an upbeat assessment from the head of the UN mission as propaganda.

Congolese troops, backed logistically by UN peacekeeping forces, launched a mission in March to drive fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) from urban centres in the east.

The head of the UN mission in DR Congo, Alan Doss, said last week the outcome of Operation Kimia 2 had been "largely positive" and that "zones with high population levels are under the control of government forces".

The FLDR said in a statement to AFP in Nairobi that it "denies and condemns the irresponsible, false and propagandist remarks" made by Doss.

The rebel group, in the statement signed by its executive secretary Callixte Mbarushimana, also rejected a Congolese army assessment that it had killed 354 rebels and captured 151 others since July as "propaganda".

The rebels charged that Congolese military forces were "eaten up by deep divisions and large-scale internal mutinies" in the eastern provinces of Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu.

The FDLR is estimated to have 5,000 to 6,000 fighters. Some took part in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi minority in Rwanda before crossing into DR Congo.

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