MONUSCO evaluating DRC clashes

President of the political wing of the rebel group M23 Bertrand Bisimwa. Clashes resumed at dawn in Kibumba, north of Goma, a strategic city of one million people in the mineral-rich but volatile east. Photo: JUNIOR D.KANNAH

KIBUMBA - The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo says it is evaluating the situation after fresh violence erupted between government forces and M23 rebels in the east of the country.

The clashes resumed at dawn in Kibumba, some 25 kilometres (16 miles) north of Goma, a strategic city of one million people in the mineral-rich but volatile east, an army officer said under condition of anonymity.

A human rights activist from Kibumba said "there were detonations all night long" in the town.

Meanwhile, Bertrand Bisimwa, political chief of the M23 rebel group that controls territory near the Rwandan border, said the army had launched a new offensive around Mabenga, a town some 90 kilometres north of Goma.

"They are trying to see if they can make a breakthrough, but it is hopeless," he said.

The United States has urged both parties to exercise restraint to prevent the conflict escalating.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO, said Friday that it was "extremely concerned" about the fresh hostilities, calling on the M23 rebels to return to the negotiating table.

The UN Security Council in March approved the deployment of a special African force of up to 3,000 troops -- under MONUSCO command and led by a Tanzanian general -- with an unprecedented mandate to target rebel groups in DR Congo.

On Monday, the rival sides both announced a halt to peace talks taking place in the Ugandan capital Kampala despite UN pressure to end the 18-month-old rebellion ravaging eastern DR Congo.

Meanwhile neighbouring  Rwanda has accused the DRC of firing three shells across the border.

Additional reporting AFP

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