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Witness: Ntaganda Troops Murdered 30-50 Civilians in Kobu Town

Today, a witness at the International Criminal Court (ICC) recounted the slaughter in August 2003 of an estimated 30 to 50 civilians by a militia commanded by Bosco Ntaganda in the eastern Congo town of Kobu.

Testifying for the prosecution, the individual who goes by the pseudonym Witness P301, stated that Ntaganda’s Union for Congolese Patriots (UPC) troops occupied Kobu for eight or nine days. During that period, the witness fled to a neighboring town. Upon receiving information that the militia had retreated after killing several civilians, the witness returned to the town to establish if his shop was intact and to find out who had been killed. “I had been separated from my family members and wanted to find out whether any were among those killed,” he said.

The witness said he came upon bodies of murdered civilians. Asked by prosecution lawyer Eric Iverson to describe what he saw, the witness recalled seeing 30 to 50 corpses in a wooded area, some disemboweled and others decapitated. Those who were killed included women, children, and men, said the witness.

Witness P301 testified with his image and voice distorted in order to conceal his identity. Hearings also frequently went into closed session to avoid revealing any identifying information. In open court, Iverson displayed to the witness a number of photographs showing corpses and asked the witness whether the scenes looked familiar. For all photographs, Witness P301 responded that they depicted the scenes he saw in Kobu.

Witness P301 also described pillaging by UPC troops. “All the shops, even my shop, had been smashed. The doors had been broken down and things set on fire. The village had been pillaged,” he said. Houses were destroyed, and empty shells from small and large caliber weapons lay along the road next to dead bodies.

Earlier today, another witness completed giving evidence. The individual who goes by the pseudonym Witness P912 took the stand yesterday after the conclusion of testimony by Witness P365. Like her predecessor, most of Witness P912’s evidence was heard in closed session. In the brief moments of open court, it emerged that the witness was a resident of Mongbwalu town during 2002. It remains unclear what the main focus of her evidence was.

Ntaganda faces 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC, which include murder, rape, sexual slavery, pillaging, and using child soldiers. The crimes were allegedly committed during 2002 and 2003 in towns including Kobu and Mongbwalu while he served as the deputy chief of staff of the UPC. At the time, the group was one of numerous militia active in ethnic conflict in Ituri.

Hearings continue on Monday, October 10, with defense cross-examination of Witness P301.