A U.N. inquiry confirmed systematic cannibalism, rape, torture and killing by rebels in a campaign of atrocities against civilians in the forests of northeast Congo, with children among the victims, U.N. authorities said today.
Accused rebel groups include the Congolese Liberation Movement, led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, one of two key insurgent movements promised a leading role in Congo's government under a power-sharing agreement to end the central African nation's four-year-old war.
Rebels called their terror campaign Operation Clean the Slate, said Patricia Tome, spokeswoman for the U.N. Congo mission in the capital. "The operation was presented to the people almost like a vaccination campaign, envisioning the looting of each home and the rape of each woman."
The charges are laid out in a preliminary report based on a six-day mission by U.N. investigators last week to remote Ituri region. The investigation was prompted by reports from clergy and nonprofit groups operating in the province.
U.N. investigators said the attacks occurred at Mambasa, 70 miles northwest of the northeastern city of Beni, and at Mangina, also near Beni.
The report cited 117 instances of arbitrary executions between Oct. 24 and 29. It cited 65 cases of rape, including the rape of children, 82 kidnappings and 27 cases of torture.
"The testimony given by victims and of witnesses was of cannibalism and forced cannibalism," including people made by rebels to eat members of their own family, Tome said.
Atrocities found by investigators include the removal and consumption of hearts of infants, small girls killed and mutilated, "people executed alive before the members of their families, and the rape of children," Tome said.
U.N. investigators previously reported that the targets of cannibalism also included Pygmies, whom rebels routinely enlist as hunters. Investigators said they went into the bush to interview Pygmies who had gone into hiding after the rebel campaign.
The allegations named Bemba's group and its ally, the Congolese Rally for Democracy-National, which are fighting the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement for mineral-rich areas of Ituri province.
The findings have been given to the U.N. Security Council and to Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.