International

DR Congo battles rage despite cease fire offer

Bombs kill civilians as army goes after rebel group, accusing them of launching attacks after cease fire agreement

Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers sit in the back of a truck on Nov. 4, 2013 after recapturing a hilltop area from a rebel group.
Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

Fighting continued to rage in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Monday, a day after rebel group M23 agreed to a ceasefire with the country's military after 20 months of bloodshed.

Government troops on Monday drove the M23 rebels from hilltop positions in the east of the country, where they were holed up after being forced from their last stronghold of Bunagana last week.

The army said the rebels had been bombing Bunagana, a town close to the DRC’s eastern border with Uganda, violating the ceasefire declaration M23 made over the weekend.

"This is not fighting; it is bombs launched by M23 targeting the population of Bunagana," said Col. Olivier Hamuli, a spokesman for the DRC army. "They are targeting civilians."

Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb, reporting from Bunagana, said that he had seen at least three bodies and that body parts scattered the road in the town. Soldiers on the scene said more had been killed.

Envoys monitoring the conflict for the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union urged both sides Monday not to default on progress made in peace talks, saying M23 should renounce its rebellion as agreed and the army should hold off from further military action for now.

The U.N. special force in the DRC said it fired mortar rounds at M23 rebels on Monday in what appeared to be its first direct combat against the rebellion since a resumption of hostilities last month.

Bertrand Bisimwa, the leader of M23, said in a statement on Sunday that "all the forces of the Congolese revolutionary army" had been ordered to end hostilities with government troops.

Bisimwa said his aim was to "allow the continuation of the political process" with the DRC in a bid to end the insurgency plaguing the eastern region since April 2012.

A rapid army advance in the last few weeks has driven rebels from towns and cornered them in the steep, forested hills along the Ugandan border, raising the prospect of an end to a 20-month rebellion that has gripped Congo's mineral-rich east.

Several countries have contributed troops to a U.N. intervention brigade designed to help Congo's army force the M23 rebels into talks.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

 

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