Congo in 'heavy fighting' with 2 militias
16 July 2013, 17:13
Johannesburg - Heavy fighting is taking place between the Congolese army and two militias in the eastern Congo, officials confirmed on Tuesday, as security in the volatile region has again deteriorated.
On one front, the army is fighting with the M23 rebels, a mostly ethnic Tutsi militia, while nearby there have been battles with the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Muslim armed force.
The Congolese government late on Monday said it had killed 120 M23 fighters in battles north of Goma, the largest city in the region, though the rebel group denied the claim, saying it did not have that many soldiers in the area.
Felix Prosper Basse, the military spokesperson for Monusco, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the country, said by telephone from the Democratic Republic of Congo that he could not confirm casualty figures.
"We cannot yet ascertain the results or casualties. We observed 500 civilians were fleeing the area," Basse said. He confirmed mortars, artillery fire and rocket launchers were used in the battles with M23 which have been raging since Sunday.
The fighting with the ADF, which kicked off late last week and sent more than 65 000 refugees over the border to Uganda, appears to have quieted.
"The security situation across the border is now cool. The ADF had made a sporadic attack but were later dislodged from Kamanga. Some of the people have began going back," Ugandan army spokesperson Lieutenant Nisiima Rwemijuma told dpa.
Monusco said the ADF had briefly taken villages near the border. Also, a peacekeeping unit fell into an ambush, resulting in two Nepalese soldiers suffering minor injuries.
The UN has since deployed attack helicopters, which also came under fire from light weapons on the ground.
The UN and Kampala have accused the ADF of having links to Somalia's al-Shabaab militia.
M23, which has been on the back foot this year as a result of internal splits, is believed to be backed by Rwanda.
Rwanda's mostly Tutsi government has accused the Congolese army of attacking M23 positions with the aid of Hutu militias.
In the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Hutu extremists killed more than 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days of bloodshed.
The conflict later spilled over the border into Congo, sparking a lengthy civil war, which still lingers in the east of the massive central African nation.