Army deploys two more battalions to Ituri

Two more battalions of the Congolese Armed Forces have arrived in Bunia, the main town in the northeastern district of Ituri, ahead of their deployment to formerly militia-occupied territories of Mahagi and Aru, an army liaison officer told IRIN on Tuesday.

"They arrived by road and will be deployed by road in order to easily assess the situation on the roads," Lt Gulain Umba, the army liaison officer, said.

He added that the army would assess the situation across an area spanning 480 km from Bunia through Djugu, a territory occupied by Front des nationalistes intégrationistes (FNI) and Union des patriotes congolais militias.

Due to a shortage of police officers, Umba said, the battalions' duties would, in addition to protecting national security, extend to the protection of the lives and property of civilians.

Aru and Mahagi territories were previously occupied by the rebel Forces armées du peuple congolais and FNI militias.

While Belgian instructors trained the first battalion that has been deployed in Ituri in the past several months, Congolese instructors prepared the second battalion for one month.

An army officer, Col Maurice Aguru, said the UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, would train the battalions in peacekeeping operations before their deployment.