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International Criminal Court acquits Congo rebel leader

The International Criminal Court has acquitted Congolese rebel leader Mathieu Ngudjolo of war crimes. The acquittal is only the second verdict in the court's 10-year history and the first time it has cleared a suspect.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague acquitted Ngudjolo on Tuesday of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was accused of being responsible for a massacre in the eastern Congolese village of Bogoro in 2003, where 200 people were murdered and hundreds of women raped.

Tuesday's acquittal is the second verdict that the court has handed down since
its creation 10 years ago and the first time a suspect has been cleared of charges.

Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said atrocities had been committed during the conflict but prosecutors had failed to tie them to Ngudjolo beyond reasonable doubt.

Prosecutor Fatou Besnouda immediately indicated she would appeal and ask for the 42-year old Ngudjolo to be kept in custody.

Parts of eastern Congo remain virtual war zones even today, where rebel fighters are locked in conflict with government forces and are believed to be supported by neighboring Rwanda.

hc/dr (AP, AFP, dpa)