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Democratic Republic of Congo6 November 2008

Mai-Mai militiamen hold Belgian reporter, interpreter and driver in Nord-Kivu

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Mai-Mai militiamen holding Belgian journalist Thomas Scheen, together with his interpreter and his driver, in the Rutshuru region of the eastern province of Nord-Kivu to release them at once. Scheen is a correspondent for the leading German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The press freedom organisation is very concerned for their safety as the military situation in the region is extremely volatile.

“We would like to point out that journalists are regarded as civilians under international law and, as such, should be protected by all the parties to the conflict,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The group holding Scheen and his assistants have an obligation to release them safe and sound.”

The Belgian foreign ministry said Scheen was “kidnapped by a Mai-Mai movement group” yesterday near Rutshuru, where there has been fighting for the past two days between troops under the command of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and pro-government Mai-Mai militias.

Radio France Internationale (RFI) said Scheen was taken by force towards the locality of Kinyandoni together with his interpreter and driver. The Belgian daily Le Soir reported that Mai-Mia militiamen had claimed responsibility for their abduction and were demanding that the rebels withdraw from Rutshuru. Other sources questioned whether there really had been a Mai-Mai claim of responsibility.

RFI reported that the UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has begun negotiating their release.

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