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Congo fighting flares as hundreds shelter in convent – army, MSF

FIGHTERS from the M23 rebel group clashed with the army in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on the fourth day of violence in which four civilians have been killed, the army said.

About 500 people, some of them injured, sought shelter in a convent in Ntamugenga village near the borders of Uganda and Rwanda and need to be evacuated, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres tweeted.

The unrest in North Kivu province has broken months of relative calm in eastern Congo following clashes between the army and M23 militants at the end of March.

The group declared a ceasefire in April, and the seven countries of the East African Community trade bloc set up a regional military force to try to stem decades of militant activity in Congo’s mineral-rich east.

But M23 rebels attacked military posts in Rutshuru territory near the border with Uganda and Rwanda on Thursday, national army spokesman Sylvain Ekenge said in a statement late on Sunday.

Four civilians were killed and 40 injured, including children, he added.

M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma and the group’s president Bertrand Bisimwa both posted Twitter posts accusing the army of initiating the violence.


A civil society source who did not wish to be named said the M23 had captured Ntamugenga, a strategic target close to a highway connecting the city of Butembo to the provincial capital Goma.

“Fighting continues around Ntamugenga this morning,” Ekenge told Reuters on Monday.

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One Congolese official said the army had retreated from the village to protect civilians and was shooting at M23 rebels in the surrounding bushland.

The M23 is waging its most sustained offensive this year since a 2012-2013 insurrection that seized vast swathes of territory before fighters were chased out by Congolese and United Nations forces into Uganda and Rwanda.

There have been regional efforts in recent years to have the M23 demobilize, but its leaders have complained about the slow implementation of a peace accord and accused the Congolese army of waging war against it.

Congo accuses Rwanda and Uganda of backing the group, which they deny.

More than 23,000 people have fled the latest bout of fighting since October 20, including 2,500 that crossed the border to Uganda, according to the United Nations.

By The African Mirror