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DRC: Fighting resumes north of Goma

29 August 2013, 16:04

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 15km away. 

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 north.

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.



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