Fighting resumes in eastern DRC
23 July 2013, 14:06
Goma - Fresh fighting raged in the Democratic Republic of
Congo's restive east for several hours Monday as army helicopters attacked
positions of the M23 rebels, who fired mortars in return, both sides said.
The latest clashes in the central African country's
mineral-rich but conflict-torn east broke four days of relative calm, further
damaging a tattered truce that had lasted from late May, when UN chief Ban
Ki-moon visited the region, until July 14.
"There have been clashes between our troops and the
M23," a Congolese officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The M23 are firing mortars... and we've engaged
helicopters to attack the enemy positions."
The M23, a group launched by Tutsi ex-soldiers who mutinied
from the army in April 2012, confirmed the clashes and said army helicopters
were attacking its positions around the towns of Kibati, just north of the
flashpoint city of Goma, and Uvira, some 300 kilometres (200 miles) to the
"Since this morning the government has regularly been
using helicopters... to bomb our positions in the Kibati and Uvira areas, but
without success," M23 spokesperson Vianney Kazarama told AFP.
He said the clashes stopped in the late afternoon, while a
government officer told AFP on condition of anonymity there was a
"lull" in the fighting.
There were no immediate reports of any casualties.
But the Congolese government accused the M23 of killings,
rapes and looting over the past week in the eastern town of Kiwandja.
"According to multiple sources, elements of the M23
rebel group committed serious abuses over the course of the past week in
Kiwandja, in North Kivu province," said government spokesman Lambert Mende
in a statement.
"The toll from the violence is 10 homes and 15
businesses looted, 13 youths killed, seven women raped and 13 people
wounded," he added, saying the acts constituted "war crimes and
crimes against humanity".
The UN and various human rights groups have accused the M23
of atrocities including rape and murder in the past. The Congolese army has
also been hit by accusations of rapes and killings.
The UN has begun deploying its first-ever offensive force to
the eastern DR Congo to fight the M23 and other armed groups. About two-thirds
of the new 3 000-troop force is in place, and the UN said last week it was
ready to send them into battle.
The M23 occupied Goma, the capital of North Kivu province,
for 10 days in November before withdrawing from the city under international