Fresh fighting has erupted in eastern Congo, following the arrival of armed men disguised in women’s clothing, say residents.
The heavy fighting between the Congo army and M23 rebels resumed for a second day near Goma yesterday, ending several weeks of relative calm.
The heavy fighting resumed in Muja, a village some seven miles from Goma, following the arrival of armed men in women’s clothes, local residents said.
“They were wearing kikwembe – a Congolese shawl worn by women – “over their uniforms, and women’s headscarves,” said Bifumbu Ruhira, a farmer at the village of Kanyarucinya.
The Congolese army claimed to have killed 120 rebels. A total of 12 Congolese troops were also killed in the fighting, according to a government spokesman.
A report by the United Nations panel of experts studying Congo, made public in June, alleges that Rwandan soldiers have joined the M23 in recent months, a claim that Rwanda adamantly denies.
Last year, the UN experts alleged that entire units from the Rwandan army had travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to reinforce the M23 in battle.
The rebels alarmed the international community in November by seizing Goma, a city of 1 million people on the shore of Lake Kivu, prompting the speedy deployment of the UN Intervention Brigade to try and bring peace.
The 3,000-strong force drawn from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi has a tough mandate to crush armed groups and end decades of unrest in eastern Congo, but it has yet to enter combat.
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