We will spend the night in Goma: Lt Col Vianney Kazarama

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More than 150 rebels have been killed in fighting with government forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the regional governor has told the BBC.

Julien Paluku said the fighting was continuing on Friday morning near the main regional city, Goma.

Mr Paluku said the city would not fall, despite rebel claims to be on the verge of capturing the city.

The fighting is the most serious since July in the mostly lawless but resource-rich eastern DR Congo.

Nearly 500,000 people have fled their homes since April when the rebels mutinied from the army.

There has been no independent confirmation of the numbers killed in the clashes and the rebels did not provide a casualty figure.

‘Bombing’

The fighting has been taking place around the village of Kibumba about 30km (19 miles) north of Goma in North Kivu province.

A body count showed that more than 150 rebels and two government soldiers had been killed, said Mr Paluku, the North Kivu governor.

Thousands of people have fled the latest fighting, he said.

Mr Paluku told BBC Afrique he had received a phone call from M23 military spokesman Lt Col Vianney Kazarama who told him that the rebels would “spend the night” in Goma.

However, government forces would repel any attack on the city, Mr Paluku said.

On Thursday, the army spokesman in Goma, Olivier Hamuli, said 44 rebels had been killed – and one high-ranking officer from the army also died.

Lt Col Kazarama accused government forces of “bombing” rebel positions, but declined to give casualty figures, AFP reports.

Both sides accuse the other of starting the conflict.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende said “51 bodies [of rebels] wearing Rwandan army uniforms have been collected” from the battlefield, AFP reports.

On Tuesday, Uganda closed the Bunagana border crossing near Goma.

This followed a request from the DR Congo government, which said M23 was illegally raising money from people travelling between the two countries to finance its operations.

Last month, a UN panel of experts said Rwanda and Uganda were supplying M23 with weapons in what is seen as an on-going battle for control of the region, which is rich in minerals.

Rwanda and Uganda strongly deny the allegation.

The UN and US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze earlier this week on the group’s leader, Sultani Makenga.

The UN has a large force in DR Congo to help the government establish its authority in the mostly lawless east.

BBC

 

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