By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - Eight people, including two members of the Pygmy ethnic group and six militiamen, were killed in a military operation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to dislodge them from a protected park home to lowland gorillas, local authorities said Sunday.
"In a joint operation of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and forest guards to evict the Pygmies, two Pygmies were killed and others were wounded," Pascal Cimana, an official of the Kalehe region in South Kivu province, told reporters.
The fighting took place on Friday in Kahozi-Biega Park -- the only place in the world where the lowland gorillas roam in the wild.
Six members of the National Council for Rebirth and Democracy (CRND) militia group, an offshoot of the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), were also killed, Cimana said, adding that at least 87 grass-thatched huts were razed.
Militias have been accused of using the Pygmy community to shield their illegal mining and exploitation of other natural resources in the park.
Fighters of the militia group Raia Mutomboki and the CRND were engaged in the mining, according to Cimana.
Roughly 120 militia groups reportedly operate in the mineral-rich eastern DRC.
Reports by civil society groups indicate that hundreds of civilians have been killed in the conflict this year alone.