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The United Nations on Sunday accused M23 rebels of “deliberately” attacking peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where fighting between the rebels and the Congolese army resumed Thursday.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in the DRC, Bintou Keita, “condemns in the strongest terms the attacks by the March 23 Movement (M23) against the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and against Monusco peacekeepers this morning in the Shangi area”, in the territory of Rutshuru, North Kivu province, Monusco, the UN force in the DRC, said in a statement.
According to the statement, after attacking Congolese army positions, “M23 rebels deliberately targeted Monusco peacekeepers in the area, who responded in accordance with their mandate.
“A joint FARDC-Monusco operation was then launched to clear the area of M23 fighters,” Monusco said, calling on the movement to “immediately cease all hostilities, in accordance with the commitments made in the Nairobi process.
According to residents interviewed from Goma, the capital of North Kivu, Monusco has engaged helicopters against the rebels.
The M23 is a former Tutsi rebellion that was defeated in 2013 by the DRC’s armed forces and re-emerged late last year, blaming Kinshasa authorities for not respecting commitments to demobilize its fighters.
Fighting resumed in April between the army and the movement on the first day of consultations in Nairobi between the Congolese government and rebel groups active in eastern DRC. At the time, the Congolese presidency said it had obtained Kenyan mediation to expel the M23 branch, which it accused of having resumed hostilities.
For its part, the M23 said in a statement that elements of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), Rwandan Hutu rebels who have taken refuge in the DRC, had come to reinforce the Congolese army and had attacked some of its positions on Sunday morning. According to the M23, the Congolese military “took refuge” in a Monusco base, “forcing the hand” of the peacekeepers “to intervene in the fighting.
According to local sources, the fighting, which resumed on Thursday between the army and the M23 after several weeks of calm, continued on Sunday evening, causing many inhabitants of villages in Rutshuru territory to flee again.