Oxfam halts operations in DRC

KINSHASA - The British charity Oxfam International yesterday said it had suspended operations at Mbandaka, a key town in the northwest Democratic Republic of Congo, because of insecurity.

"Because of the insecurity that prevailed at Mbandaka we have suspended our activities until the situation stabilises in the region," Oxfam's director in the DR Congo Roland Van Hauwermeiren told AFP.

He said Oxfam staff "stayed lying on the ground for two days" during clashes early this month between Enyele tribal insurgents, who tried to seize Mbandaka airport, and the DR Congo army and UN troops.

About 100 Enyele fighters attacked the airport on April 4 and the army regained control the next day with the help of forces from the UN Mission in the DR Congo.

Catholic nongovernmental organisation Caritas said the fighting around Mbandaka caused 12 civilian deaths, while the government reported 21 killed, including nine from the army and UN mission and 12 insurgents. - Sapa-AFP