UPDATE 2-U.N. finds 17 mass graves in Congo, threatens global court investigation
* Reports of rapes and killings by soldiers
* Government says will investigate once it sees evidence
* Total of 40 mass graves found so far (Adds government response, details)
By Nellie Peyton
DAKAR, April 19 (Reuters) - U.N. investigators have found 17 new mass grave sites in central Congo and gathered reports of rapes and killings by soldiers that the International Criminal Court should investigate if the government fails to, the U.N. rights chief said on Wednesday.
The Democratic Republic of Congo's government - which regularly denies allegations of abuses by its soldiers - said it would investigate the reports once it saw the evidence.
U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he had reports Congolese soldiers had dug the grave sites after clashes with the Kamuina Nsapu militia in Congo's central Kasai region in March, according to a statement from his office.
"At least 74 people, including 30 children, were reported to have been killed by soldiers," in the clashes, he said, without giving details on the sources of his information.
During a separate incident in the provincial capital of Kananga last month, soldiers were reported to have shot dead at least 40 people and raped women and girls, Zeid said, again without saying who had made the reports. Continued...