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UN imposes sanctions on DRC rebels

A UN Security Council sanctions committee has blacklisted two rebel groups responsible for war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new sanctions will freeze the assets of those connected to the groups.

Congolese M23 rebels withdraw on December 1, 2012 from the city of Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hundreds of Congolese M23 rebels began a withdrawal on December 1 from Goma as promised under a regionally brokered deal, after a 12-day occupation of the city. Around 300 rebels, army mutineers who seized Goma last week in a lightning advance, were seen by an AFP reporter driving in a convoy of looted trucks north out the main town in Democratic Republic of Congo's mineral-rich east. AFP PHOTO/PHIL MOORE (Photo credit should read PHIL MOORE/AFP/Getty Images)

Kongo M23 Rebellen ziehen aus besetzten Gebieten

The UN Security Council has sanctioned M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and their alleged Rwandan allies the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), diplomats announced Monday.

The move freezes the assets of those connected to the groups and will block them from travel.

"We believe these designations will directly help advance the goal of a sustainable peace in eastern DRC," US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said in a statement.

"We urge the rank and file of both the M23 and the FDLR to defect and demobilize in order to disassociate themselves from the sanctioned groups."

The decision came just hours before Rwanda joins the 15-member council as a non-permanent member on Tuesday.

M23 rebels, who were formally part of the Congolese army, said they took up arms against the government over its failure to respect a March 23, 2009 peace agreement that originally led to their integration into the military. They have since broadened the scope of their campaign to "liberate" the entire country and to oust President Joseph Kabila. The M23 are led by warlord Bosco Ntaganda.

UN experts have accused Congo's neighbors Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebel group, an accusation both countries deny.

The other rebel organization hit with sanctions on Monday is the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu group that opposes President Paul Kagame's Tutsi-led government. The group includes Hutu militiamen suspected of participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, which killed 800,000 people - mostly Tutsis.

FDLR has been guilty of "targeting of women and children in armed conflict in the DRC, including killing and maiming, sexual violence, and forced displacement," the UN statement said.

The council has previously sanctioned individual members of M23 and the FDLR, but not the groups themselves.

hc/ccp (Reuters, AFP)