UN presses search for foreign experts kidnapped in DR Congo

The UN has more than 15,000 peacekeepers operating in Democratic Republic of Congo who are part of the MONUSCO force

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday said its troops were pressing ahead with a search for two foreign experts who were kidnapped in the violence-wracked central Kasai region.

"The search is ongoing ... both by the UN and by the government" for the foreign experts and their four Congolese staff, who were kidnapped Sunday, said the spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, Charles-Antoine Bambara.

One of the foreign victims was American and other Swedish-Chilean.

MONUSCO chief Maman Sidikou has travelled to Kananga, the regional capital, to follow up on the search operation, Bambara added.

Along with the two foreign experts, three Congolese motorcycle-taxi drivers and an interpreter were also taken hostage by unidentified assailants in the Kasai region.

The attackers then drove their victims into a forest nearby, where authorities lost track of them.

The Congolese government said the group was travelling in the Kasai region without the local authorities being informed.

They have also criticised the group for travelling in the troubled area by motorcycle-taxi.

A Uruguayan peacekeeper was shot and injured last week in the same region, which has been wracked by a rebellion since September.

The uprising erupted after government forces in August killed a tribal chief and militia leader, Kamwina Nsapu, who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila.

The violence has since spilled over to the neighbouring provinces of Kasai-Oriental and Lomami, leaving at least 400 people dead.

The United Nations has nearly 19,000 troops deployed in the DR Congo, its largest and costliest peacekeeping mission.

About 100 of those troops were recently dispatched to the Kasai region.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week asked the Security Council to send an extra 320 UN police to the country after a deal to end a dispute over the presidential election stalled.

The so-called Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo is made up of six people and provides annual reports on the situation in the country, notably on the movement of illegal arms.