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3 people working for the United Nations kidnapped in Eastern Congo, UN says

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KINSHASA, Congo — Three people working for the United Nations in eastern Congo have been kidnapped and taken into the forest, the U.N. mission said Friday.

A Zimbabwean and two Congolese were in the region investigating an area for de-mining, said U.N. Congo spokesman Sylvestre Kilolo. They were preparing to return to Goma on Thursday when they were kidnapped, and their vehicle was left on the road, he said.

The U.N. has made contract with the kidnappers, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters in New York. The U.N. is working with "relevant parties on the ground" for the workers' release, he said.

Congolese soldiers have been fighting in this region against Rwandan Hutu rebels, known by their French acronym FDLR. Eastern Congo has been plagued by a myriad of armed rebel groups since the Rwandan genocide.

The Congolese military and the U.N. peacekeeping mission successfully fought another rebel group known as the M23, which rose in opposition to the FDLR. The U.N.'s effort to fight the FDLR has been complicated by the Congo government's selection of two Congolese generals to lead the mission. The U.N. said that it could not work with those generals because they are accused of human rights abuses.

Congo's military has gone ahead on its own with operations against the FDLR.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution in late March that cuts the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo by 2,000. The resolution also extends the $1.3 billion, 21,000-strong peacekeeping force for a year and says its exit from Congo should be "gradual and progressive."

In eastern Congo, Rwandan troops launched an incursion into the North Kivu province, officials said. About 300 Rwandan soldiers were eventually pushed back into Rwanda, government spokesman Lambert Mende said.


AP writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations.

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