Killings by suspected Ugandan rebels draw protest in eastern Congo

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Hundreds of people protested in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday after a machete attack by suspected Ugandan rebels in which a local activist said at least six people were killed. Activist Teddy Kataliko told Reuters that seven other people were wounded and two missing after men with machetes and hatchets attacked a village on Monday evening. An army spokesman, Major Victor Masandi, said he know of three deaths. Witnesses said police fired in the air on Tuesday to disperse a crowd protesting in the nearby town of Beni over the lack of security in the volatile region. Millions died in eastern Congo in a 1998-2003 war that sucked in more than a half dozen neighboring countries, and the region remains ravaged by dozens of armed groups who contest its vast reserves of gold, diamonds and tin. Masandi blamed the attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist rebel group formed in the 1990s to fight the Ugandan government, but which now operates primarily on the Congolese side of the border. He said Congolese troops exchanged fire with the assailants, forcing them to flee. A spate of overnight massacres near Beni since October has killed more than 300 civilians. The government and local activists have blamed the ADF, though analysts say other groups are likely to be involved as well. The Congolese army launched a major operation against the ADF last year and says it has dramatically weakened the group. But regular attacks against civilians in the region have continued, and the army blamed ADF fighters for an ambush on U.N. peacekeepers last week that killed two and wounded 13 Tanzanian troops. The U.N. mission in the country has so far declined to officially assign responsibility for the ambush. The ADF's leader, Jamil Mukulu, was arrested last month in Tanzania. Congo and Uganda have both sent teams to Tanzania to lobby for his extradition. (Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)