113 rebels killed as violence flares in DRC-Times LIVE

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Thu Apr 23 08:37:27 CAT 2015

Papers ‘hold answers to genocide’

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113 rebels killed as violence flares in DRC

Sapa-AFP | 2012-11-16 08:05:09.0

Congolese rebels of the newly formed Congolese Revolutionary Army (CRA) run beside a car transporting their president as he arrives to address the media in the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bunagana October 20, 2012 in eastern DRC. Leadership of formerly M23 rebels launched a political wing called M23 Movement and a military wing, Congolese Revolutionary Army during a press conference in Bunagana near Uganda border.
Image by: JAMES AKENA / REUTERS

Some 113 rebels have died in clashes between the M23 rebel group and DRC troops, the regional governor said, as violence flared days after the UN- and US-imposed sanctions on the group’s leader.

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The fighting early Thursday near the eastern city of Goma came a day after the
UN said armed groups in the region slaughtered over 200 people including scores
of children between April and September.
Julien Paluku, governor of the resource-rich North Kivu
province whose capital is Goma, added that « a few » members of the DR
Congo government forces (FARDC) were wounded in the clashes, along with the 113
rebels killed, up sharply from a previous toll.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende had said earlier that
« 51 bodies (of rebels) wearing Rwandan army uniforms have been
collected ».
Mende added that three rebels were wounded, a captain of the
group was caught and that artillery, including rocket launches, were found.
According to the army’s spokesman for North
Kivu, Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Hamuli, one FARDC commander died
in the clashes.
M23 military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama
for his part refused to release a toll.
The M23, which has dubbed its armed wing the Congolese
Revolutionary Army, was launched by former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel
group that was integrated into the Congolese military under a 2009 peace deal
whose terms the mutineers claim were never fully implemented.
The United Nations has accused neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels, but
both countries deny this.
Human rights abuses
Rights groups accuse M23 of human rights abuses and of
unleashing a fresh cycle of violence by the region’s complex web of armed
groups.
Its leader, Sultani Makenga, a former colonel in the DR
Congo army, is accused of masterminding killings, sex attacks and abductions
and recruiting child soldiers.
A rebel statement accused the DR Congo army of launching
several offensives against M23 positions in the Rugari area, about 30 kilometres
from Goma not far from the Rwandan border.
It said the fighting was a breach of an already shaky
ceasefire.
« The FARDC advanced to attack us (…) we must defend
ourselves, » Kazarama told AFP Thursday morning. He said the rebels would
counter-attack « in self-defence ».
Hamuli rejected this: « We did not attack them, » he
told AFP. « We know that they have been reinforcing their positions for
more than two weeks. »
Hamuli said fighting stopped in the afternoon but that the
army was keeping up a search in the area. However, the M23 spokesman insisted
that « the enemy continues to bomb our positions ».
Hamuli said Thursday « a small group attacked us from Rwanda » as the Congolese army was involved
in a separate push targeting rebels between Rugari and Kibumba which borders Rwanda.
Asked whether he could identify the small group he said:
« How are we supposed to know who’s who if the M23 and the Rwandan army are
wearing the same uniform? »
The fighting came a day after the government in Kinshasa dismissed as inadequate UN and US sanctions
against Makenga and said neighbouring Rwanda
and Uganda
should also be targeted.
Washington announced
sanctions against Makenga on Tuesday, freezing his assets in US jurisdiction and forbidding any US citizen from
doing business with him, accusing him of attacks on civilians and the
recruitment of child soldiers.
The UN also ordered an assets freeze and a travel ban
against the 38-year-old.
No plans to take
Goma: rebels
North Kivu’s capital is in a strategic position in eastern
DR Congo sitting on the shores of Lake Kivu and on the border with Rwanda.
Its population of 300 000 is protected by government
forces numbering about 20 000 and 5 000 UN troops, according to a
Western diplomat. It is also the seat of a large number of non-government
organisations.
A Western source said Thursday that schools in the city
closed at noon.
« People are scared, » said Omar Kavota, spokesman
of the umbrella NGO Societe civile of North Kivu.
Goma is also ringed by several refugee camps, which had
prompted the UN mission in DR Congo (Monusco) to send in helicopters to stop
the advance of rebels in July.
With Thursday’s incident « we are seeing an influx of
displaced people to the Kanyarucinya camp », about 10 kilometres from
Goma, said Kavota.
According to the M23′s political advisor Jean-Marie Runiga
the rebels’ armed branch had been given instructions to « vigorously
respond to the adversary’s attacks and to push him back as far as
possible ».
But M23 military spokesman Kazarama denied in the afternoon
that the rebels had any plans to march on Goma. « This is not our mission.
We have repelled the enemy and we are holding on to our positions. »
The UN said Wednesday that armed groups in DR Congo’s east
slaughtered more than 200 people including scores of children between
April and September, hacking some to death and burning others alive.

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113 rebels killed as violence flares in DRC – Times LIVE