8 Tanzanian Imams 'Escape Kidnappers' In Republic Of Congo

The Eight Muslim preachers from Tanzania who were kidnapped last month in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have escaped, a top local official said Tuesday.

The preachers, seized in the restive province of North Kivu in early August, "took the chance to flee during fighting" between the Congolese army and the ethnic Hutu militia Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), provincial governor Julien Paluku told AFP.

The kidnappers were clearly FDLR members, he added, because "as soon as the fighting broke out, they fled".

The governor did not though say exactly when they managed to escape or where they were currently staying.

It was Paluku who first announced the kidnappings on August 5.

No one at the Tanzanian embassy in Kinshasa was able to confirm the report.

Kidnappings for ransom, often with physical violence against the hostages, are frequent in the region.

Several armed groups, including FDLR, operate in the east of DR Congo, which is a Christian-majority country.

The FDLR has been active in Democratic Republic of Congo -- which borders both Rwanda and Burundi -- since crossing over from Rwanda after the 1994 genocide of mainly Tutsi people there.

Opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame's Tutsi-dominated government, they are accused of carrying out brutal attacks on civilians in eastern DR Congo and of smuggling gold.

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