Congo army drives off rebels in key region

Goma - An army combat helicopter on Wednesday went into action backing ground troops against a rebel drive on the strategic town of Sake in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, military sources said.

"There are clashes now between our troops and the insurgents at Kimoka and in the hills overlooking Sake," the regular army chief in the region, General Vainqueur Mayala, told reporters.

Mayala said that troops loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda had tried to work their way southwards around Sake, the last major town before Nord-Kivu province's capital, Goma, but regular soldiers battled them, with air support.

Patient Mwendenga, an aide to Nkunda, reached in the Masisi mountains where Sake lies, confirmed that fighting was under way in the hills, while a Western security source said most insurgents had withdrawn from the previous conflict zone round Kimoka, around five kilometres from Sake.

The day had been largely calm, apart from troop movements, villagers and some people from Sake fleeing potential conflict zones in the Nord-Kivu province, where Nkunda has established a stronghold in highlands. - Sapa-AFP

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