UPDATE 1-Mass graves in central Congo bear witness to growing violence
* Militia insurrection has spread to five provinces
* Congo violence rises since Kabila overstayed mandate
* Government denies army is behind mass graves (Adds talks with militia leaders)
By Aaron Ross
TSHIMBULU, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 20 (Reuters) - T he increasingly brutal nature of fighting in central Congo between the army and local militia is on vivid display in the village of Tshienke, where the bodies of rebel fighters were dumped into a mass grave last month following intense clashes.
A visit to this site this month was the first time that journalists including Reuters have been able to see the toll that the Congolese military has exacted on fighters of the Kamuina Nsapu militia, whose insurgency poses the most serious threat to the rule of President Joseph Kabila.
Reuters was unable to determine the exact number of bodies in eight mass graves dug in January and February in Congo's Kasai-Central province. The graves were also confirmed by nine local witnesses.
The United Nations said it suspects that Congolese forces killed 84 militia members close to the town of Tshimbulu between Feb. 9-13.
The government denies its soldiers used disproportionate force and says they have recovered automatic weapons from militia fighters after clashes. Continued...