KINSHASA, March 24 (Reuters) - Nearly 250 rebels who attacked a military camp and the provincial governor’s office in Democratic Republic of Congo’s southern mining hub of Lubumbashi on Saturday have surrendered, the country’s U.N. peacekeeping mission said.
The government said it had killed about 15 of the estimated 300 Mayi-Mayi Kata Katanga separatists who attacked the capital of the Central African nation’s copper and cobalt-rich Katanga province armed mainly with bows and arrows and machetes.
“The U.N. Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) welcomes the peaceful surrender of 245 Mayi-Mayi Kata Katanga combatants who sought refuge inside the MONUSCO compound in Lubumbashi,” said a statement released on Sunday.
At least 35 people were killed in the violence, the statement said, citing local sources.
“The rebels should be handed over soon to the Government, following negotiations mediated by MONUSCO, between the governor of Katanga, military and provincial authorities and the Mayi-Mayi,” it said.
Among the group were 54 injured fighters, 15 of them with serious wounds, the U.N. said.
Millions have died in the vast former Belgian colony’s long-simmering armed conflicts concentrated in the eastern borderlands, but the mining areas around Lubumbashi have remained relatively calm.
However, the Mayi-Mayi, feeding off local grievances and secessionist sentiment, in recent months have ventured outside their stronghold in northern Katanga and towards the heart of the mining industry around Lubumbashi.
A witness to Saturday’s attack said the group had attempted to hoist the flag of Katanga’s short-lived 1960s-era independent republic before members of the army’s elite Republican Guard launched a counterattack.
Katanga hosts many international mining companies, including Freeport McMoRan and commodities trader Glencore and exports about half a million tonnes of copper a year.