Child killed in protest

KINSHASA - Police in Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province opened fire on refugees during a violent protest over food distribution yesterday, killing a child and wounding 11 civilians, officials said.

Hundreds of villagers driven from their homes by fighting between government soldiers and rebels had erected barricades at dawn in the town of Kiwanja, 60km north of Goma.

They surrounded the base of Congo's UN peacekeeping mission, hurled stones and injured 17 peacekeepers before police intervened and fired into the crowd.

"There are 11 wounded and one dead, a six-year-old child," said Dominique Bofondo, the administrator of Rutshuru territory.

"They have been here for three weeks now without any humanitarian assistance. They were demanding food," he said.

Bofondo said four police officers were also injured.

Congo's peacekeeping mission (Monuc), which is mandated to use deadly force to protect civilians, said its soldiers had not used their weapons.

Fighting between the army, Tutsi-dominated insurgents, Rwandan Hutu rebels, and local militia has forced more than 370000 Congolese to flee since the beginning of the year.

Fighters loyal to renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda abandoned a January peace deal in August, withdrawing from special integrated army brigades and sparking open conflict with government forces. - Reuters