New York: A UN Security Council committee put a Democratic Republic of Congo Army officer, accused of murdering and raping women and children, and three rebel leaders on an international sanctions list.
Innocent Zimurinda, a militia leader who was brought into the DR Congo Army and made a lieutenant colonel, has long been one of the most feared names in the strife-torn African nation, diplomats said.
He was an Army brigade commander whose orders led to the "massacre" of more than 100 women and children, mainly Rwandan refugees, in eastern DR Congo in April 2009, said a joint statement released by the French, British and US missions at the United Nations.
Before being taken into the Army as part of a peace deal, Zimurinda was in the CNDP militia and took part in an operation in November 2008 that led to the "massacre" of 89 people, including many women and children, the statement added.
"He is one of the most brutal in a zone where there is no shortage of bloodthirsty combatants," said one diplomat of the move.
The other three individuals added to the list were:
Gaston Iyamuremye -- president of the ethnic Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which has been accused of terrorising the civilian population in eastern DR Congo.
Felicien Nsanzubukire -- an FDLR chief said to have organised weapons smuggling into DR Congo from Tanzania between November 2008 and April 2009.
Leodomir Mugaragu -- an FDLR military planner and a head of its military wing.
The French, British and US missions said that all four would be subject to a worldwide travel ban and asset freeze after being added to the growing DR Congo sanctions list.
"These designations demonstrate the international community`s determination to fight against those who oppose the disarmament of rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and those responsible for the recruitment of children and serious human rights abuses," said the statement.
Rebel and militia groups, along with rogue Army elements, have been battling for control of mineral riches in eastern DR Congo provinces for several years. Whole villages have been razed and in July and August several hundred women were the victims of mass rapes.
The sanctions committee was set up by the UN Security Council in 2004.
Before Wednesday`s meeting, it already had 20 individuals and six organisations on its list. All are accused of violating a UN arms embargo in eastern DR Congo, recruiting child soldiers and human rights abuses.
Zimurinda has already been named at UN Security Council meetings on DR Congo.
In March, 51 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, made an official complaint to the DR Congo government about the officer, demanding that he be suspended and investigated.
The groups said they had evidence of "serious human rights abuses" carried out since 2007 by troops under Zimurinda`s command, often with his direct involvement.