More than 150 women raped in Congolese village, says UN

More than 150 women have been raped by rebels in a remote area of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an aid agency and the UN said.

A Rwandan rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), occupied the town of Luvungi on July 30 and embarked on a four-day raping spree in the town and the surrounding area, the International Medical Corps said.

"Nearly all reported rapes were described as having been perpetrated by two to six armed men, often taking place in front of the women's children and husbands," the IMC said in a statement.

"Large numbers of women reported being physically beaten before the sexual assaults, and some reported abuse of babies who were forcibly removed from their arms."

Stefania Trassari, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said rape was common in DR Congo, but that the attack was unusual because of the sheer number of victims and the gang rape.

The IMC is treating women for psychological and physical trauma.

The mass rape took place around 20 miles from a UN peacekeeping mission base. MONUSCO, as the mission is now known, refused to comment on the attack when contacted on Tuesday.

Sexual violence has become a huge problem in DR Congo, which is still recovering from a full-scale conflict that ran from 1998-2003. An estimated 5.4 million people have died as a result of the conflict and its long aftermath.

Rebel groups continue to roam the east - raping, looting and raking in cash from illegally mining minerals for use in consumer electronics.

The Congolese armed forces have also been accused of such actions during campaigns aimed at driving out rebels.

Aid agencies say it is impossible to give accurate figures on how many people have been sexually assaulted, but the UN said over 5,000 women were raped in the South Kivu province alone in 2009.

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