Heavy fighting erupted between government forces and M23 rebels on Tuesday morning in the eastern North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials and residents said.
“Intense fighting broke out at around 5 a.m. local time (0300GMT) in several areas in Masisi and Rutshuru, near Kitshanga town,” Georges Bushu Bishye, vice-president of the area’s local peace and development committee, told Anadolu.
“There was a lot of panic. Gunfire could still be heard after about three hours,” said Bishye.
Theogene Kahangu, a resident of Kitshanga, a town some 70 kilometers (45 miles) from North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma, said many people have been moving out of the area since the morning.
“We woke up to heavy gunfire … and many residents of Kitshanga have fled for safety,” he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the M23 rebel group accused government forces of attacking its positions.
Last week, DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi accused the M23 of “faking” a withdrawal from areas it recently seized in the east.
Regional leaders at a summit in Angola had demanded the withdrawal of M23 rebels from captured areas by Jan. 15 to facilitate an ongoing peace process.
DR Congo accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels, a charge Rwanda has persistently denied.
Kigali, in turn, accuses DR Congo of allying with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a rebel group blamed for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group.
Source: Anadolu Agency