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Congo death toll rises to 415

U.N. peacekeepers
U.N. peacekeepers are in Bunia but not authorized to intervene.

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BUNIA, Democratic Republic of Congo (CNN) -- The death toll from the recent clashes in the northeast Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bunia has risen to 415, according to a U.N. spokeswoman in the town.

Isabelle Abric told CNN Thursday by phone from Bunia that the Congolese Red Cross has been collecting bodies left around the town since fighting broke out around May 6 and continued for roughly a week.

Abric said hospitals reported that they had treated another 460 people for injuries, out of which about 14 had died.

Rival Lendu and Hema tribal groups have been fighting for control of the town. Chaos has taken over in the Ituri province, where Bunia is located, since the pull-out of Ugandan troops, responding to last year's peace accord to end the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The situation in Bunia was "very calm" Thursday morning, with signs that some residents were leaving displaced persons' camps close to U.N. troops, and going back to their homes, she said.

Despite that, Abric said she had witnessed more looting on Wednesday, and there were still allegations of more rape.

An armed group formed from the Hema minority had angrily rejected the U.N. criticism of its use of a local radio station to broadcast threats to evict displaced people from the U.N. compound in the town center, she said.

One Hema group, known as the UPC, currently has the upper hand in Bunia.

Previously, it was thought it opposed the idea of French intervention, but now that Rwanda appears to have dropped its objection to France coming as part of a broader force, it is thought the UPC -- reputedly the recipients of Rwandan support -- may not necessarily resist French deployment.

Abric welcome the idea that French intervention would begin as early as next week, as ambassadors to the United Nations in New York said Wednesday, but was skeptical it would happen that soon.

-- Nairobi Bureau Chief Catherine Bond contributed to this report


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