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Congo army claims 200 mutineers killed since April

By AFP

KINSHASA (AFP) - At least 200 mutineers have been killed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since fighting broke out in April, an army report released Wednesday said.

The first official death toll released by Kinshasa also said 40 troops from the FARDC regular army have been killed in the clashes.

The mutineers are former Congolese Tutsi rebels who joined the army under a March 2009 peace deal but defected earlier this year, complaining of poor treatment.

Congolese Chief of Staff Didier Etumba, who provided the figures during a cabinet meeting whose minutes were published Wednesday, also said 250 mutineers and 93 government troops had been wounded.

"The serious disorder created by the mutiny of Bosco Ntaganda and his men is about to be fully contained, thanks to the alacrity of the FARDC's intervention," the report said.

General Etumba was also quoted as saying that a total of 374 mutineers had surrendered to loyalist forces, including 25 with Rwandan citizenship.

The renegade soldiers have regrouped in some of the remotest parts of the Virunga national park, a jungle area straddling the borders of Rwanda and Uganda and known for hosting the world's largest population of mountain gorillas.

The mutineers are known as the March 23 movement -- named after the date of their deal with the government. They claim scores of government officers have defected to their camp.

Kinshasa says the mutiny is led by Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel military chief who is now wanted by the International Criminal Court for enlisting child soldiers.

Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this week that Rwanda, whose regime is largely Tutsi, was supporting the fugitive Ntaganda by allowing him to cross the border freely and providing him with weapons and recruits.

Kigali has vehemently denied the charge.

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