GOMA, Congo - The British charity Oxfam says hundreds of people are being killed and raped and homes are being torched in eastern Congo as militias take advantage of a security vacuum while the army fights a new rebellion.

Country director Elodie Martel calls it a humanitarian catastrophe. He says, "We have reached a new depth of misery in Congo's conflict when massacres go virtually unnoticed."

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Some quarter million people have fled their homes.

Mutinying soldiers launched the M23 rebellion in April and now control huge swathes of mineral-rich east Congo. As Congo's army redeployed, new militias have sprung up and old ones are reasserting themselves in battles often aimed at gaining control of mines.