Congo Rebels Announce Pullback to Allow Shelling Investigation

Friday, 30 Aug 2013 12:01 PM

By Joel Himelfarb

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The M23 rebel group operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said it will stop fighting and pull back from the front line to permit an independent investigation into reports that shells have landed in neighboring Rwanda, killing one person and wounding another.
 
M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa told the BBC that the withdrawal, which follows days of clashes pitting the rebels against United Nations and DRC government forces, was to allow an independent investigation into recent shelling.
 
Rwandan officials said a woman was killed and her baby wounded in cross-border shelling Thursday, the New York Times reported.
 
Rwanda accused the Congolese army of firing the shells. .Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said 23 "bombs and rockets" had been fired into Rwanda Wednesday and Thursday, bringing to 34 the number of attacks Congolese have carried out on Rwanda in the last month.
 
A newspaper close to Rwanda's government has published photographs showing what it calls a massive” military buildup near its border with the DRC.
 
Congolese army spokesman Col Olivier Hamuli countered that his government’s had not fired on Rwandan territory. He said that M23 forces – but not the Congolese military - were in the area the shells were fired from, the BBC reported.
 
A Congolese government spokesman accused the M23 rebels of firing into Rwandan territory "to give Rwanda a pretext for coming in openly in this war". Rwanda twice invaded its much larger neighbor during the 1990s, and the border area has been unstable for two decades.
 
Edmond Mulet, an assistant to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told the Security Council that U.N. forces fighting to defeat the M23 had witnessed the rebels firing artillery into Rwanda. He said they did not see Congolese government forces taking such action.
 
As tension escalated on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Rwanda for restraint.

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