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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

There goes the Confusion again: Fighting in eastern DR Congo between M23 rebels and government forces leaves 19 dead


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Fighting in eastern DR Congo leaves 19 dead

Wednesday 22 May 2013
GOMA, DR Congo: Nineteen people have been killed and 27 injured in fierce clashes between the army and M23 rebels in the restive eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the government said as fighting resumed yesterday.

Mortar fire rang out for a second day north of Goma, ahead of a visit by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to DRC today as part of a tour that will take him to the volatile provincial capital.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende told journalists that Monday’s fighting — the first involving the M23 rebels in six months — had left 15 insurgents dead and 21 injured, while four soldiers were killed and six injured. He said that fighting continued yesterday in the same area, 12 km (seven miles) north of Goma.

Mende said the rebel assault was carefully planned and was “without doubt aimed at dissuading, even preventing, the deployment of the United Nations special intervention brigade.” The latest fighting comes a week after the first troops from the new brigade arrived with a strong mandate to attack rebel groups.

“M23 and those who support it in the region deliberately carried out this attack to delay the advent of peace” in the volatile and mineral-rich region, said Mende.
He repeated accusations that M23 was receiving help from abroad, without naming the countries.

“Heavy weaponry and several cases of ammunition from the exterior have been recovered in two enemy positions which have fallen under the control of the Congolese army.” Ban’s tour will take him to the capitals Rwanda and Uganda which have been accused by both Kinshasa and the UN of backing M23, an allegation the two neighboring countries deny.

In a second day of fighting, Col. Olivier Hamuli, spokesman for the Congolese army in North Kivu province, said that M23 forces had attacked their positions in the same zone as on Monday.

“We’re keeping a fierce response in store for them,” Hamuli added.
A Western military expert said M23 was fighting with mortars and armored vehicles captured from government troops last November. The army was using multiple-barrel cannons, he added.

No spokesmen for the rebel force could be reached, but in a statement sent overnight to AFP, M23 denounced the “military option” taken by the government and reaffirmed the movement’s commitment to peace talks in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
These talks started under regional pressure for a peace deal following the withdrawal of M23 troops from Goma in December, after they occupied the city for 10 days. At present the talks are stalled because the rebels insist that the Kinshasa government sign a cease-fire.

Ban on Tuesday said during a visit to Mozambique that the flare-up in the DRC meant that the deployment of a UN military taskforce with a tough mandate to attack rebel forces should be speeded up.

“Considering what has happened I think we must expedite the deployment so they will be fully responsible as soon as possible,” Ban said in the wake of the arrival of the first batch of troops last week.

The UN brigade, which will include soldiers from Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, will be charged with conducting “targeted offensive operations” against rebels in an area that has been gripped by conflict for more than two decades.

M23 rebels in April vowed to retaliate if attacked by UN troops after the UN Security Council approved the creation of the 2,500-strong force.