Reuters International

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Rebels from the Hutu ethnic group in eastern Congo are suspected of killing at least seven civilians in revenge for the killing of one of their number, local activists said on Tuesday.

Hundreds of civilians have died in inter-ethnic violence and a series of massacres by armed groups in Democratic Republic of Congo's conflict-ravaged east, which borders Rwanda and Uganda.

An ethnic Nande militia group, the Mai-Mai Mazembe, killed a Hutu on Sunday in Kibirizi, leading to the reprisal attack by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), said Innocent Gasigwa, spokesman for Civil Society of Rutshuru.

The FDLR "came to take vengeance .... There were clashes last night and into this morning," Gasigwa said by telephone, adding that the army restored calm this morning.

An FDLR spokesman denied that his forces were involved in the attack. An army spokesman said he was aware of the incident but declined to give details.

Lawless eastern Congo is plagued by dozens of armed groups that prey on the local population and exploit mineral reserves. Millions died there between 1996 and 2003 as regional conflict caused hunger and disease.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Larry King)

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