Rebels Raped Almost 200 Over Five Days in Democratic Republic of Congo

The mass rapes occured just miles from UN peacekeeping station

August 26, 2010— -- The event was shocking, even by the standards of a country that has been home to the deadliest conflict since World War II.

Starting in late July, and over five days, at least 179 people were brutally raped in one of the most horrific attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The conflict there, which emerged from the embers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, has killed up to an estimated 6 million people and has seen rape used regularly as a weapon of war.

Today the United Nations Security Council condemned the attack and expressed concern that it allegedly occurred as close as 6 kilometers from a UN peacekeeping base at Kibua. Peacekeepers say they didn't learn of the attacks until days later.

According to various reports, the armed rebel groups raped everyone in sight, from women to children. Many were beaten before being raped in front of their families. According to an account by the aid group International Medical Corps (IMC), which treated many of the victims, even babies were torn from their mothers' arms and abused.

According to the group and information from a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal reports, the violence started on July 30 when a group of rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai Mai militia arrived in the town of Luvungi claiming they only wanted food and rest.

After dark, however, a larger armed band of rebels arrived and together several hundred armed men began systematically raping and looting the town. They then moved on to 13 surrounding villages, continuing their rampage. The rebels blocked off the only road leading to the area so that nobody could escape and call for help.

According to the IMC, nearly all of the rapes were perpetrated by two to six men at a time. Women were often beaten before being violated in front of their husbands and families.

The armed groups finally left on Aug. 3.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited eastern DRC last summer. In an effort to shed light on the ongoing violence she met with rape victims in the town of Goma. While there she announced a $17 million pledge to help survivors of sexual violence in the country.

On Wednesday, Clinton issued a statement condemning the attack.

"This horrific attack is yet another example of how sexual violence undermines efforts to achieve and maintain stability in areas torn by conflict but striving for peace," she said.

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