Kinshasa - Artillery fire resumed early on Thursday near
Kibati, north of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the army
backed by the UN troops is fighting rebels, witnesses said.
In Goma, the capital of the turbulent and mineral-rich North
Kivu province, shelling was heard in the morning coming from the Kibati region
Fighters of the M23 rebel movement, a Congolese ethnic Tutsi
force that deserted from the army last year, have been battling the regular
army (FARDC) for a week after sporadic clashes broke a two-month truce in July.
Western military sources who asked not to be named said that
the shelling could be a prelude to an assault by the army, backed by soldiers
of a newly formed the UN intervention brigade, which has an unprecedented mandate
to take the offensive against the armed movements long active in eastern DRC.
In New York, the UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said Wednesday
that "one UN peacekeeper has been killed and three others have been
wounded". Local military sources said the casualties were Tanzanian troops
and gave a toll of one dead and four injured.
All flights to Goma - a city of a million people that was
occupied by M23 for 10 days last November - have been suspended since the
outlying airport is vulnerable, a source in Monusco, the UN mission in the
country, said on Thursday.
2009 peace pact
Four shells fell early Wednesday night on Goma, two of them
striking the area where the airport lies east of the city, but nobody could say
who fired them. Residents said shellfire killed one person and wounded about 15
others in the north of the city.
The M23 rebels, who accuse the Kinshasa government of
reneging on a 2009 peace pact and a deal to hold direct talks, have threatened
to attack Goma again. They are accused of shelling the city from hills to the
The UN intervention force is using attack helicopters and
mortars in the Kibati hills, while firing on other rebel positions with heavy
artillery, according to Monusco spokesperson Madnodje Mounoubai.
The two eastern Kivu provinces, North and South, have been
chronically unstable since two wars wracked the vast country between 1996 and
2003, drawing in armies from neighbouring and southern African countries, who
fought in part over access to vast mineral wealth.
Kinshasa and the United Nations have accused Rwanda of
backing M23 fighters, an allegation the Kigali government forcefully denies.