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Guatemala losing patience over Congo deaths probe

Written by: Staff

GUATEMALA CITY, Apr 4 (Reuters) Guatemala wants a full explanation from the United Nations for the killing of eight of its troops in a peacekeeping mission in the Congo in January, the country's human rights ombudsman said.

A UN inquiry into the killing of the eight ''Kaibil'' Special Forces soldiers, whose bodies were said to have marks of suspected torture, is still not complete after missing two deadlines.

''We have serious doubts about the place and type of operation that our personnel were involved in,'' said Sergio Morales, Guatemala's human rights ombudsman yesterday.

''We have found that the language of the agreement that authorized the participation of the Guatemalan military in the mission varies significantly from what we understand actually happened in the Congo,'' he told Reuters.

The troops died, and five others were wounded, on January 23 during what the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has acknowledged was a botched ambush during a mission to try to capture or kill Vincent Otti, deputy commander of Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army.

A UN diplomat has said, on condition of anonymity, that the recovered bodies showed signs of torture, and the Paris daily Le Monde reported that some had been beheaded.

UN officials insist, however, that there was no evidence the peacekeepers had been tortured or mutilated.

''There are worries because the UN has not proven why they would have been carrying out a search and destroy mission and not a defensive mission,'' Morales said. ''We believe this violates the agreement that authorized the operation.'' The notorious Lord's Resistance Army has terrorised communities in Uganda's remote north for two decades, killing tens of thousands of unarmed villagers, slicing off survivors' lips or ears and abducting more than 10,000 children as fighters, porters and sex slaves.

Its fighters have also crossed borders to wreak havoc in neighboring Sudan and Congo where the UN operates one of the world's largest peacekeeping missions.

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