More Than 70,000 Displaced Since Thursday in Latest Congo Fighting

Monday, 15 Jul 2013 11:41 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Heavy fighting between Congolese Army forces and rebels continued Monday near the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with aid agencies saying that more than 70,000 Congolese refugees have fled into Uganda following separate clashes that erupted Thursday in the eastern part of the DRC.

The M23 rebels — a Tutsi-dominated insurgency fighting Congo President Joseph Kabila’s government — said their hill positions had been bombarded most of night by military planes, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials said a 3,000-strong U.N. intervention brigade to neutralize and disarm the rebels is approaching full strength, and that it was prepared to use "lethal force" to protect civilians if the M23 advanced towards Goma.

Last year, the rebels withdrew from Goma after briefly capturing the city. Peace talks between the two sides in Uganda have since stalled.

The M23 rebels, who like Rwanda's leaders are mainly from the Tutsi ethnic group, mutinied and deserted from the Congolese army in April 2012. An estimated 800,000 people were displaced in the ensuing unrest.

A U.N. report leaked earlier this month says Rwanda is now only providing "limited" support to the M23 rebels and Uganda none at all. Both countries had denied allegations in an earlier UN report that they were arming the group.

On Thursday, another militant group operating in the region — a Ugandan rebel group called the Allied Democratic Forces, which is based in the Democratic Republic of Congo — raided the town of Kamango. It was recaptured by the Congolese army the following day.

The BBC reported that many refugees displaced by the ADF attack are staying with Ugandan relatives.

According to the United Nations, the ADF has recently expanded its military capacity and has established links with Somalia's jihadist al-Shabab organization.

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