The Congolese army has been fighting rebels in the east of the country for the third day in a row, with clashes reported in villages around the town of Goma, near the country’s border with Rwanda.
Soldiers backed by UN helicopter gunships battled rebels around a strategic army garrison near a mountain gorilla reserve in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as thousands of people continued to flee a three-month-old rebellion allegedly backed by neighbouring Rwanda.
UN Radio Okapi said the rebels on Thursday began attacking Rumangabo military camp, which the soldiers had only retaken from the M23 rebel group on Wednesday.
The radio station said the rebels continue to hold Rutshuru town and nearby Kiwanja, and that thousands of people had fled in recent days.
Major Olivier Hamuli, an army spokesman, said soldiers made a strategic retreat from Rutshuru “to avoid a bloodbath” of civilians.
On Tuesday, the rebels came within 25 kilometres of Goma, battling soldiers at Kibumba and forcing into flight the thousands of people who have made Kibumba a centre for refugees from a 2009 rebellion.
The rebels are accused of numerous human rights abuses including rape and forcefully recruiting children into their ranks. Soldiers also are accused of rape and widespread looting.