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36 dead in new DRC battles: UN

United Nations - Battles between the army and a militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have left at least 36 people dead and thousands have sought refuge at a UN base, a spokesman said Thursday.

People descended on the small UN peacekeeping base at Kitchanga in mineral-rich North Kivu province as new gunfire was heard across the region, UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters.

Displaced people approach the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, as seen from Gisenyi as the Congolese Revolutionary Army fights with the DRC government army on the periphery of Goma, the capital of Congo's North Kivu province. Credit: REUTERS

Clashes between the DR Congo army and the the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo, better known under its French acronym APCLS, erupted in the region on Wednesday.

Del Buey said at least 36 people, including 10 civilians, have been reported killed in the battles. One peacekeeper from the UN force, MONUSCO, has also been wounded.

“This morning MONUSCO reported gunshots in the area. The mission says that between 3 000 and 4 000 Congolese have now taken refuge around its base in Kitchanga,” the spokesman said.

“MONUSCO is closely monitoring the area, including with its combat helicopter,” del Buey said.

The APCLS is a longstanding militia in the region which made its name battling the late dictator Sese Seko Mobuto in the 1990s when widespread wars in DR Congo and neighbouring countries left millions dead.

Kitchanga is in the Masisi region of North Kivu, close to where the army and UN peacekeepers are in a showdown with the M23 group. Deadly fighting has also been reported this week between M23

factions.

The unrest is an early challenge to a UN-brokered peace accord signed on Sunday by 11 African nations, including DR Congo, intending to bring peace to the region.

DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila has vowed to step up efforts to extend government control to the lawless eastern part of his country. The other countries have in turned promised not to interfere in the affairs of neighbors.

UN experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23 fighters. Both countries deny the charge.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon said in a report released Wednesday that foreign countries are still backing rebels in DR Congo and must face “tangible consequences” for their actions. - Sapa-AFP

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