Roman Catholic priest killed in rebel-held eastern Congo

GOMA, Congo - Unidentified assailants have shot dead a Roman Catholic priest while he was driving along a bad stretch of road in rebel-held northeastern Congo, aid officials said Wednesday.

Father Romano Kaindo, 50, was killed on Tuesday evening in Butembo, 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Goma, after leaving the residence of the bishop of Beni-Butembo, an area controlled by Ugandan-backed rebels, aid officials said.

"Nothing was stolen from the priest and it appears that the killing is linked to the prevailing insecurity in this area," said an aid agency official, on condition that he not be identified for security reasons.

The Vatican missionary news agency, FIDES, reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources, that Kaindo was killed by rebels from the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma. However it would be the first time that rebel group operated in that area in more than three years.

Businesses in the area remained closed Wednesday because of security concerns, another aid agency official told The Associated Press in a satellite telephone interview.

Officials of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement, which controls the area, could not be reached for comment.

Maj. Shaban Bantariza, spokesman of the Ugandan army said he is unaware of the incident.

Residents said that Mayi Mayi tribal warriors live in the area. The warriors, who are allied to the Congolese government in the country's 3 1/2-year civil war, have no history of attacking priests.

Elements of former Rwandan army officers and Hutu militia also have found refuge in the area on fleeing their country after carrying out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which at least half a million minority Tutsis and political moderate Hutus were killed, residents said.

It is unclear if they were involved in the killing of the priest, aid officials said.

The war in Congo broke out in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda sent troops to support rebels attempting to oust then-President Laurent Kabila.

They accused Kabila of warmongering and threatening regional security by supporting Rwandan and Ugandan rebels.