Several positions of the Congolese army have come under attack by March 23 Movement (M23) rebels since Wednesday in the northeastern North Kivu province, the military confirmed.
“The Congolese armed forces were attacked on several axes by the M23 and its allies from 4 a.m. on Wednesday,” Colonel Ndjike Kaiko, an army spokesman in Goma, told Xinhua news agency.
“At present, the situation has stabilised in the zones of Chanzu, Runyonyi, and the surrounding area except in Kibumba, where the Congolese armed forces is working to repel the assailants from where they came from.”
He said M23 rebels have occupied Kibumba, nearly 20 kilometres from Goma, capital of North Kivu province, and that they also cut the road linking Goma and Bunagana, a Congolese town bordering Uganda where fighting has also been ongoing since Wednesday morning, Xinhua news agency reported.
Clashes in Kikumba reportedly forced nearly 10,000 people to flee toward Rugari, in Rutshuru territory, and Kibati, nearly eight kilometres from Goma, according to the UN.
Since last week, fighting has raged between the Congolese army and M23 rebels attempting to regain control of several localities after being pushed back by government troops supported by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO).
On Tuesday, MONUSCO Head Bintou Keita accused M23 rebels of deliberately targeting MONUSCO peacekeepers stationed in the Shangi area of the northeastern North Kivu province early Sunday, hours after attacking Congolese army positions.
The M23 is a group of former rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The name came from the March 23, 2009, agreement between the CNDP and the Congolese government.
The M23 leaders have accused the government of failing to respect that agreement.
The M23 announced in early April its withdrawal from the villages it took earlier in the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu province. However, early Sunday, intense fighting resumed between Congolese armed forces and the M23 in the Rutshuru territory.