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Kinshasa - Congolese troops have captured Bunagana, the main M23 rebel base near the eastern border with Uganda, driving the M23 rebels from their last stronghold, a government spokesman told AFP.
“Bunagana is completely under our control. We had been fighting since the early morning,” said Lambert Mende, adding that the rebels had either fled into the mountains or crossed into Uganda.
“Bunagana is in our hands”, one soldier told AFP. An officer from the UN mission in the country also confirmed that troops had taken control of the town, which lies about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Goma, the capital of the turbulent North Kivu province.
Troops and tanks had surrounded the nearby town of Rutshuru on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday's assault, the army said.
Congolese troops backed by a UN intervention brigade launched a major offensive earlier this week against the M23 rebel movement of army mutineers in North Kivu.
The M23 was founded by former Tutsi rebels who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal they said was never fully implemented.
They mutinied in April 2012, turning their guns on their former comrades and launching the latest rebellion to ravage DR Congo's mineral-rich and conflict-prone east.
The UN and numerous rights groups have accused the M23 of atrocities including rape and murder in a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee.