Published: May 08, 2013 12:07 PM EDT

RUTSHURU, Congo (AP) - A prominent civil society member in North Kivu province in eastern Congo says that nearly 30 people have been kidnapped by the M23 in their fief in the Rutshuru region.
    
President of North Kivu Civil Society Thomas d'Acquin Muiti told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the most recent abduction took place Sunday, when an advisor to the area's Catholic schools, Gratien Bahati, was stopped on his way back to Rutshuru's town center. He was released after a $5,000 ransom was paid.
    
The M23 rebel group denies being involved in the kidnappings, even though they are the only armed group in the area.  Residents who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety confirmed Muiti's account.

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