[Trigger warning for descriptions of rape/gang rape.]
An aid worker says rebels in eastern Congo gang-raped nearly 200 women over four days within miles of a U.N. peacekeepers’ base.
He said international and local health workers have treated 179 women but that the number raped could be much higher. Cragin said his aid group has been going back to the town and identifying more cases.
A mob of Rwandan rebels gang-raped at least 150 women last month during a weekend raid on a community of villages in eastern Congo, United Nations and other humanitarian officials said Sunday.
The United Nations blamed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or F.D.L.R., for the attack. The F.D.L.R. is an ethnic Hutu rebel group that has been terrorizing the hills of eastern Congo for years, preying on villages in a quest for the natural resources beneath them.
The raided villages are near the mining center of Walikale, known to be a rebel stronghold, and are “very insecure,” said Stefania Trassari, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Rape is something we get quite often.”
But she and other United Nations and humanitarian officials said that this attack was unusual because of the large number of victims and the fact that they were raped by more than one attacker simultaneously.
On the evening of July 30, armed men entered the village of Ruvungi, in North Kivu Province.
“They told the population that they were just there for food and rest and that they shouldn’t worry,” said Will F. Cragin, the International Medical Corps’ program coordinator for North Kivu, who visited the village a week after their arrival.
“Then after dark another group came,” said Mr. Cragin, referring to between 200 and 400 armed men who witnesses described as spending days and nights looting Ruvungi and nearby villages.
“They began to systematically rape the population,” he said, adding, “Most women were raped by two to six men at a time.”
The attackers often took the victims into the bush or into their homes, raping them “in front of their children and their families,” Mr. Cragin said. “If a car passed, they would hide.”
The rebels left on Aug. 3, he said, the same day the chief of the area traveled through the villages and reported horrific cases of sexual violence. “We thought at first he was exaggerating,” Mr. Cragin said, “but then we saw the scale of the attacks.”
Miel Hendrickson, a regional director for the International Medical Corps, which has been documenting the rape cases, said, “We had heard first 24 rapes, then 56, then 78, then 96, then 156.”
“The numbers keep rising,” she said. The United Nations maintains a military base approximately 20 miles from the villages, but United Nations officials said they did not know if the peacekeepers there were aware of the attack as it occurred. A United Nations military spokesman, Madnoje Mounoubai, said information was still being gathered.
There is nothing to say.