Families of missing hail French arrest of Congolese general

A group representing the families of 350 refugees who went missing in Congo-Brazzaville in 1999 on Friday hailed the arrest of a Congolese general on charges of crimes against humanity.

Marcel Touanga, the head of a group representing relatives of the missing, said the arrest on Thursday of General Norbert Dabira was "good news" and showed the tragedy had not been forgotten.

"We are fighting for the truth in the face of strong forces because there are links between the organisers of these massacres and some French personalities," Touanga, whose 28-year-old son was among the missing, told AFP.

Dabira, 64, was accused of torture and kidnapping on a massive scale by examining magistrates after being arrested in the town of Torcy near Paris. Dabira, who owns a home in France, was released pending trial after he was charged.

The refugees went missing when they returned to the port of Brazzaville after fleeing from their country's civil war to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rights groups and relatives say they were tortured and executed upon their return, though Congolese authorities have always denied any massacre.

Dabira is the former inspector-general of the Congolese army, and since October 2012 has been a high commissioner for the re-integration of former soldiers.

When contacted by AFP, the general said he was "totally innocent" and would not leave France during the investigation.

In 2005, Dabira was one of 15 accused -- many of them senior army and police officials -- acquitted in the case by a criminal court in Brazzaville.

France opened its own probe into the alleged massacres in 2002.