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Congo tribal fighters kill 200

BUNIA, Congo — Congo tribal fighters killed at least 200 people and abducted scores more during a series of attacks that destroyed a northeast town once controlled by a rival tribe, an official from the defeated tribe said Sunday.

Fighters from the Lendu tribe repeatedly attacked Fataki, a town 37 miles northwest of Bunia that was controlled by the rival Hema tribe, over the past month, forcing thousands of residents to flee, said Saba Rafiki, security chief for the Union of Congolese Patriots, a Hema tribe militia.

During the attacks, the Lendu abducted at least 137 Hema residents to use as laborers and concubines, Rafiki said.

Officials from the United Nations mission in Congo, or MONUC, could not confirm those figures.

But military observers who flew over Fataki in helicopter gunships Saturday spotted only a few people picking through the remains of smoldering houses, said Leo Salmeron, a MONUC spokesman.

The people, who appeared to be looters, dropped the corrugated iron sheets they were carrying and fled for cover when the two gunships swooped low for a closer look, Salmeron said. The last attack appeared to have occurred Thursday or Friday, he said.

The destruction of Fataki came as soldiers from a French-led international force handed over their positions in Bunia, capital of the restive Ituri province, to Bangladeshi troops, who assumed control of the town Sunday.

The French-led force was deployed in June under a U.N. mandate to secure Bunia after at least 500 people were killed in weeks of fighting between Hema and Lendu militias.

The 2,500 Bangladeshi soldiers are part of what will be a 4,800-strong U.N. force charged with stabilizing the Ituri province.