New York - The United Nations said on Monday it is ready to use "lethal force" to stop a rebel advance on the Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma after major new clashes erupted.
The DRC government said at least 130 people, including 10 soldiers, were killed in new fighting with M23 rebels on the outskirts of Goma in the east of the country on Sunday.
The UN has deployed a 3 000 strong intervention brigade in eastern DRC in recent weeks. The joint South African, Tanzanian, Malawian brigade has an unprecedently strong UN Security Council mandate to take on armed groups.
The DRC "mission has put its troops on high alert and stands ready to take any necessary measures including the using of lethal force to protect civilians," UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.
"Any attempt by the M23 to advance toward Goma will be considered a direct threat to civilians," he added.
M23, which UN experts say has received backing from Rwanda and Uganda, briefly took Goma in November last year, sparking the UN decision to beef up its forces in a region where millions have died in conflict over the past two decades.
The latest heavy fighting broke out at Mutaho, about eight kilometres northwest of Goma, the UN mission in DRC, Monusco, said.
The M23, which has forces around Goma, has reinforced its positions with "heavy artillery" and a "battle tank," Monusco said in a statement.