All residents of a town and surrounding villages in the south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have fled fighting between government forces and rebel militias, according to aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Tuesday.

The medical group has a clinic in Shamwana, Katanga province. It suspended operations there over the weekend amid heavy fighting and returned two days later to a ghost town.

“The team arrived to find that (Shamwana) is still empty of people,” the aid group said.

Some 8 000 people had lived in the town and several affected neighbouring villages.

“Though its medical activities have resumed, MSF remains concerned about the deterioration of security in the area, which continues to hamper the continuous provision of medical assistance to the population,” according to a statement.

Katanga's capital, Lubumbashi, is the second largest city in the DR Congo. The region is rich in natural resources – including cobalt, uranium and diamonds – and foreign mining firms are major players in the area. – Sapa-dpa