An armed group kidnapped 35 people Wednesday in eastern Congo, local officials and the UN mission to the country said.

The 35 were abducted in Mambasa in Ituri province. Most of them were artisanal miners - who work non-industrial mines that are often operated illegally - according to local official Alfred Bongwalanga.

He said they were abducted by the group Mai-Mai Simba, which opposes an environmental project in a mining area.

"They have not yet announced the reason for the kidnapping, nor asked for a ransom," Bongwalanga said.

UN mission spokesman Amouzoun Codjo Martin said peacekeepers were searching for the abductees.

Dozens of people were kidnapped last year by armed groups in eastern Congo, usually to obtain a ransom.

Dozens of armed groups have remained active in the area since the 1996-2003 Congo wars, sparked by more than 1 million Rwandans flooding into the region after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Congo is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world. Part of the mining is done artisanally.

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