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Women and babies 'raped by rebels'

Rwandan and Congolese rebels gang-raped nearly 200 women and some baby boys over four days within miles of a UN peacekeepers' base, an American aid worker and a Congolese doctor have said.

Will Cragin, of the International Medical Corps, said aid and UN workers knew rebels had occupied Luvungi town and surrounding villages in eastern Congo the day after the attack began on July 30.

He said his organisation was able to get into the town, about 10 miles from a UN military camp, only after rebels ended their brutal spree of raping and looting and withdrew of their own accord on August 4.

Civil society leader Charles Masudi Kisa said there were only about 25 peacekeepers and they did what they could against some 200 to 400 rebels who occupied the town of about 2,200 people and five nearby villages.

Mr Masudi said: "When the peacekeepers approached a village, the rebels would run into the forest, but then the Blue Helmets (UN) had to move on to another area, and the rebels would just return."

There was no fighting and no deaths, Mr Cragin said - just "lots of pillaging and the systematic raping of women".

Four young boys were also raped, said Dr Kasimbo Charles Kacha, the district medical chief.

Mr Masudi said the babies were aged one month, six months, a year and 18 months.

Mr Cragin said: "Many women said they were raped in their homes in front of their children and husbands, and many said they were raped repeatedly by three to six men."

International and local health workers have treated 179 women but the number raped could be much higher as terrified civilians are still hiding, he said.

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