DR Congo police accuse rebels of killing 39 officers

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Congolese army soldiers walk ahead of a tank through Kanyarucinya, around 10km from Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17, 2013.

Congolese army soldiers walk ahead of a tank through Kanyarucinya, around 10km from Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17, 2013.

web_photo_DRC_army_soldiers_230217

Congolese army soldiers walk ahead of a tank through Kanyarucinya, around 10km from Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17, 2013.

Congolese army soldiers walk ahead of a tank through Kanyarucinya, around 10km from Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 17, 2013.

KINSHASA - Congolese national police accused rebels Monday of massacring 39 of their officers in the violence-wracked Kasai region.

The victims were killed in an "ambush" early Friday and buried in a mass grave by supporters of late militia leader Kamwina Nsapu around 75 kilometres north of Tshikapa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's central Kasai region, a police spokesperson said.

The 39 massacred police officers had been travelling in two army transport trucks "with a substantial cargo" of material and law enforcement equipment, which their attackers hijacked, spokesperson Colonel Pierre-Rombaut Mwanamputu added in a statement.

The national police "strongly condemns this massacre" and have taken urgent measures to boost security in that part of the country, the statement said.

The remote region has been plagued by violence since mid-August, when government forces killed Nsapu, a tribal chief and militia leader who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila's central government.

Clashes between government forces and Nsapu supporters began in central Kasai, but the violence has since spilled over to the neighbouring provinces of Kasai-Oriental and Lomami, leaving at least 400 people dead.

The Kamwina Nsapu group is accused of numerous atrocities by the United Nations and of using child soldiers.

DR Congo security forces have also faced regular UN condemnation over the use of disproportional force against the militiamen, who are armed mainly with clubs and catapults.

Earlier this month, seven Congolese soldiers were arrested after the online release of a video implicating troops in an alleged massacre in Kasai-Oriental province.