Pakistan to probe alleged arms trading by troops in Congo


Kinshasa/Nairobi/Islamabad : Pakistan said Wednesday it will look into allegations that its peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo traded in gold and weapons with militias it was tasked with disarming.

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"Our relevant authorities will look into the matter to ascertain the facts," Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said in Islamabad.

Pakistan's permanent mission in New York was informed only Tuesday by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations about a BBC report making the claims, she added.

According to the broadcaster, UN peacekeepers, including Pakistani troops stationed in the DR Congo's volatile east in 2005, traded arms for gold with rebels, who still operate in the region.

A UN team was sent to investigate the charges last year and has yet to come out with its official report.

Earlier, BBC reported that a witness told the UN team he had seen disarmed militias one day who again carried weapons the next day.

"Repeatedly he saw militia who had been disarmed one day, but the next day would become rearmed again. The information he could obtain was always the same, that it would be the Pakistani battalion giving arms back to the militia."

The troops were seen buying gold and making deals directly with militiamen.

The United Nations Mission in the Congo (MONUC) said it could not comment on the internal investigation, but the official report would be released "anytime soon".

"MONUC is determined to relentlessly pursue the disciplining of anyone whose conduct is substantiated as unbecoming of a peacekeeper," said a statement by MONUC, which has some 17,000 international troops fanned out across the country the size of Western Europe.

MONUC has been charged with helping Congo's transition to democracy, seeing through historic elections last year that brought President Joseph Kabila to power after more than 40 years of authoritarian rule.

The world's largest and most expensive peacekeeping mission, MONUC's troops have been tasked with disarming thousands of rebels and keeping the peace, especially in the turbulent east.

Congo's rich mineral deposits helped spark a 1998-2003 war, which sucked in half a dozen nations and killed some 4 million people, mostly from hunger and disease.