Congo: 44 killed in fighting between M23 and Army

Last Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 22:29

Goma: Forty-four people were killed in new fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels on Thursday, ending a two-month cease-fire, said Congolese officials.

Both sides blamed the other for starting the fighting.

"The M23 has attacked us around 5 am this morning," said Colonel Olivier Hamuli, who added the fighting against 700 rebels continued until about 3 pm.

Forty-four M23 fighters were killed in the battle, the governor of North Kivu province, Julien Paluku, told The Associated Press by phone.

But the M23 rebels charged the Congolese army initiated the hostilities. On Saturday, the political branch spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa accused the army of attacking the rebels in Kitagoma, near the Ugandan border.

However, local sources say the attack in Kitagoma was carried out by an armed group allied with the M23 and the rebels are only looking for an excuse to start fighting again.

The spokesman for the United Nations mission in Congo, MONUSCO, Manodje Munubai also confirmed today clash.

Since August, members of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region have been holding talks in Kampala, Uganda, to try to find a solution to the conflict.

There had been a de facto cease-fire during the mediation, but tensions mounted on the ground over the past two weeks as the talks seemed to be reaching a dead end.

Troop movements increased on both sides of the frontline, triggering skirmishes between the rebels and the Army.

Direct fighting finally broke out Thursday in Rugari, the town between the M23 and the Congolese army positions, only 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Goma, the provincial capital, and around 15 kilometers (9 miles)from Kanyaruchinya, a camp where more than 60,000 people have sought refuge from the conflict since June.

More than 250 families fled the fighting today and arrived at the Kanyaruchinya camp, said a witness contacted by AP in Goma.

The M23 is a rebellion that started in April and May following the defection of Congolese Army officers and troops.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 22:29

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