M23 rebel group fighters. Fresh fighting erupted between the M23 rebels and government forces backed by UN troops several days ago outside Goma city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.(Image courtesy of AFP)
At least four people have been killed in fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), raising the death toll to seven since clashes between M23 rebels and government forces backed by UN troops started several days ago, witnesses say.
A Reuters witness saw four bodies — a woman and three children — and a resident of Ndosho named Charles Paluku quoted by the AFP news agency said a shell had landed in the area.
The victims of Saturday’s fighting were killed by shells fired by M23 rebels, the UN said, as DRC and neighbouring Rwanda traded accusations over days of border fighting.
Three UN peacekeepers were wounded by shells that landed near their positions, the UN said, charging that its troops had been targeted by the rebels.
Much of the fighting has concentrated in and around Goma, a key city in North Kivu province.
Mary Robinson, the UN envoy to the African Great Lakes region, condemned the violence, saying in a statement: “The attacks on the town of Goma as well as on MONUSCO forces, and their tragic consequences on the civilian population already traumatised by two decades of conflict, are unacceptable.”
“We must do everything to avoid an escalation of tension in the region,” she said.
A UN brigade with troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania saw its first military action on Thursday, firing artillery at the rebels.
The brigade was set up by the Security Council in March to help neutralise armed groups in eastern DR Congo. Artillery fire has hit both sides of the border this week, sparking accusations and counter-accusations by both DR Congo and Rwanda.
Rwandan officials said five mortar bombs had fallen on Rwandan villages on Friday, following a rocket the previous day, and blamed Congo’s army.
Rwanda twice invaded its much larger neighbor in the 1990s and sponsored Congolese rebels trying to topple the Kinshasa government.
Millions have died since then in Congo’s eastern borderlands, a patchwork of rebel and militia fiefdoms rich in tin as well as tungsten and coltan ores.
UN investigators have accused Rwanda of backing M23, an accusation the Rwandan government has repeatedly rejected.
The M23 rebels briefly seized Goma last year and only pulled out following a regionally brokered deal under which they were supposed to remain several miles outside the city.
Fighting has erupted periodically since mid-July, ending a two-month lull in the violence, and the rebels moved closer to Goma, arguing that Kinshasa was reneging on its pledge to hold direct talks. — Al Jazeera
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