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Militia fighters attack UN peacekeepers in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo -- Militia fighters wounded two UN soldiers yesterday when they fired on peacekeeping troops sent to investigate a reported mass grave of militia victims, including child combatants, in northeastern Ituri Province, a spokesman for the United Nations said.

The clash erupted near the town of Mahagi, near the camp of a militia called the Army of the Congolese People, which includes members of the local Hema tribe, UN spokesman Christophe Boulierarch said.

UN authorities had received reports of a mass grave that included child fighters killed after trying to disarm under a UN-led campaign, Boulierarch said by telephone from Mahagi.

Still a flash point after Congo's 1998-2002 war, Ituri Province holds an estimated 15,000 combatants still to be disarmed under the UN-Congolese agreement. In the last year, militia violence there has killed at least 50,000 people and uprooted a half-million others.

Yesterday UN forces were fired upon when they reached the militia camp, Boulierarch said. UN troops fired warning shots and urged militia fighters to send out their women and children. Instead, the fighters used the noncombatants as human shields, Boulierarch said.

No information was available on the seriousness of the UN soldiers' wounds, or about casualties among militia fighters.

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