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DR Congo recovers land from armed groups in Orientale province
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19:44, March 11, 2009

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The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has recovered several localities from Mai-Mai armed groups in the northeastern province of Orientale, according to the military.

General Kifua, commander of the ninth military region of the armed forces of DR Congo (FARDC), told reporters on Tuesday that the recovered land includes Balobe, Okenge and Ilongo, where 12 army men had been taken hostages by local militias.

Eleven of the 12 FARDC soldiers were rescued in an offensive launched on Feb. 26 after the Mai-Mai armed groups detained the soldiers on a mission to persuade them to rejoin the peace process, said the commander.

Nearly all the territory illegally occupied by armed groups in the province has come back under control of FARDC, he said, adding the militias either fled into forests or abandoned their camps in the military operation at the expiry of an ultimatum.

"We are continuing the mopping up and encircling operations against the remnants of armed groups for the restoration of the state authority in this area, which was out of the government control for years," the commander said.

He also demanded militias still active in the province lay down arms and return to national unity.

The DR Congolese government signed a peace deal with 20 armed groups in January 2008, before the agreement was broken in August by the National Council for the Defense of the People.

With the arrest of CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda in January in a joint military operation of DR Congo and Rwanda, the situation in the war-torn central African country has taken a turn for better.

Dissident CNDP generals and Mai-Mai militias in the eastern province of North Kivu have rejoined the peace process, which appears more consolidated than a year ago with DR Congo seeking joint efforts with neighboring Rwanda and Uganda in its restive eastern provinces.

Source: Xinhua

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