Congo army clashes with M23 rebels close to eastern city of Goma
Sun, Jul 14 16:13 PM EDT
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's army clashed with
fighters from the M23 rebel group close to the eastern city of Goma on
Sunday, in what appeared to be the most serious combat for several weeks.
In a statement, M23 said the fighting started at 2 p.m. local time (1200
GMT) when the army attacked its positions in the town of Mutaho, some 7 km
(4 miles) from Goma, a city of a million inhabitants.
The rebel group, which sparked international outcry when it seized Goma in
November, said its troops were responding firmly.
"Kinshasa's army has just launched a large-scale attack on M23's positions
at Mutaho," Vianney Kazarama, an M23 spokesman, told Reuters.
Colonel Olivier Hamuli, an army spokesman, said the rebels had attacked
"The initiative for the fighting came from M23. It was them who attacked us
at Mutaho," he said by telephone from Goma.
The M23 has accused the army and pro-government militia of trying to goad
its troops into combat for several weeks.
The fighting comes as the deployment is under way of a new 3,000-strong U.N.
Intervention Brigade with a tough mandate to take the fight to armed groups
in eastern Congo.
The force - which will be made up of troops from South Africa, Tanzania and
Malawi - has begun patrolling and is approaching full strength.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told Reuters on Sunday the
17,000-strong U.N. force in Congo would begin using unarmed drones on a
trial basis to monitor the war-torn region.
U.N. peacekeeping troops have been in eastern Congo for more than a decade
but the complex conflict has dragged on, killing millions through violence,
famine and disease since the 1990s.
Peace talks between the Congolese government and M23 in Kampala, the capital
of neighboring Uganda, have stalled.
Some 66,000 Congolese refugees have fled into Uganda since the Ugandan rebel
Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic group, and elements of the
Somalian al Qaeda-linked Shabaab movement struck the town of Kamangu on
On Sunday, local officials said that ADF and Shabaab fighters had captured
the town of Kikingi, close to the Ugandan border, when police fled after a
"They are looting and robbing, as they did at Kamango," said Amisi Kalonda,
the regional administrator. "The army is stationed not far from there and is
going to dislodge them."
The ADF waged an insurgency against the Ugandan state in the late 1990s from
its bases in Uganda's Ruwenzori Mountains and across the frontier in the
eastern Congo jungle.
A Ugandan government offensive that ended in 2001 quelled the uprising and
pushed its remnants deeper into eastern Congo. The group had since kept a
Uganda is worried that a buildup in the capacity of the ADF could pose a
threat to its Lake Albert region, where crude reserves estimated at 3.5
billion barrels have been discovered.
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a 2010 bombing in which 79 people were
killed while watching the soccer World Cup final in revenge for Uganda's
deployment of troops in Somalia.
(Reporting by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by