KINSHASA The United Nations, European Union and United States on Thursday condemned a Rwandan rebel attack on a refugee camp in east Congo as a "terrorist act" and said those responsible must be brought to justice.
Fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) killed at least nine people on Wednesday when they opened fire on refugees at the camp 75 km (45 miles) north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, UN officials said.
Around 20 more people were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, many in critical condition, Congo's UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) said.
The attack came days before U.N. Security Council ambassadors arrive in Democratic Republic of Congo to assess progress by the world's largest peacekeeping mission since a 1998-2003 war blamed for the deaths of 5.4 million people.
"This latest crime perpetrated by FDLR fighters ... only adds to the long list of murderous attacks and targeted raids against civilian populations committed by this group," read the statement, signed by MONUC chief Alan Doss and the US and EU special representatives in the Great Lakes region.
"Deliberate attacks against civilians in conflict situations constitute, in the eyes of international law, war crimes or crimes against humanity and those responsible ... will have to face national or international justice," it said, branding the killings "the latest terrorist act by Rwandan Hutu rebels".
FDLR political leaders issued a statement from Paris denying any involvement in the attack.
The presence of FDLR fighters, who include ex-Rwandan military and militia blamed for the killing of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, is at the root of the conflict in eastern Congo.
"NEED LASTING PEACE"
The latest killings followed clashes between the FDLR and Congolese soldiers trying to flush them out of strongholds near the Rwandan border. During their retreat, rebels entered the camp, looted and opened fire on the refugees, UN officials said.
Two Congolese aid workers were injured during the shooting. The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) evacuated its staff on Thursday and suspended operations at the Kinyandoni camp, which shelters around 5,000 internally-displaced Congolese.
"We need a lasting peace in North Kivu as there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people in need of shelter, protection and solutions," said Marjon Kamara, head of UNHCR's Africa team.
Aid workers estimate more than half a million people have fled violence in the past 18 months as the FDLR, Congolese army, Tutsi insurgents and local militias battle in North Kivu.
The attack on Kinyandoni was the first targeting a refugee camp since the government signed a peace accord in January with more than a dozen rebel groups and militias, but not the FDLR.
In November, Congo promised Rwanda's Tutsi-controlled government it would disarm FDLR fighters on its soil to ease cross-border tensions and end more than a decade of violence.
However, clashes involving Rwandan Hutu insurgents have grown more frequent as the army has stepped up operations.
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/ )
(Reporting by Joe Bavier; editing by Daniel Flynn)
((firstname.lastname@example.org; +221 864 5076; Reuters messaging: email@example.com, Dakar Newsroom