, DR Congo, Aug 25 – Shelling killed two people Saturday in Goma in the restive east of DR Congo after a newly formed UN brigade took its first military action to back government troops and prevent rebels from entering the mining hub, witnesses said.
Three UN peacekeepers were wounded by shells that landed near their positions, the UN mission MONUSCO said, charging that they had been targeted by the rebels.
It was unclear who fired the deadly shell that smashed into Goma’s western neighbourhood of Ndosho, sparking an angry reaction from residents who blocked access to vehicles, witnesses said.
“A shell has just landed on my neighbourhood,” Ndosho resident Charles Paluku told AFP on the phone, adding that two people had been reported dead.
Another witness speaking on condition of anonymity provided the same death toll.
UN envoy to the African Great Lakes region Mary Robinson condemned the violence, saying in a statement: “The attacks on the town of Goma as well as on MONUSCO forces, and their tragic consequences on the civilian population already traumatised by two decades of conflict, are unacceptable.”
She added: “We must do everything to avoid an escalation of tension in the region.”
Residents said two other shells were fired in the Goma area Saturday, including one that crashed into a camp for displaced people to the west of the city.
There were no immediate reports of any casualties from those shells.
UN mission chief Martin Kobler warned after the Ndosho incident that “aggressions against the civilian population will not go unpunished.”
Kobler, who has been in Goma since Friday, condemned the “indiscriminate and unacceptable attacks against the civilian population.”
“I have ordered the MONUSCO force to react with all necessary energy against these frightful, unspeakable crimes,” he said.
In an open letter sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, M23 rebel leader Bertrand Bisimwa accused Kinshasa of targeting civilians and demanded an independent inquiry into its actions.
“The Congolese government decided to shell the town of Goma causing the deaths of men and creating a climate of despair among residents,” he wrote in a document seen by AFP Saturday.
The M23 was founded by former fighters in a Tutsi rebel group whose members were integrated into the regular army under a 2009 peace deal that they claim was never fully implemented.
Several of its leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities and the world body has accused Rwanda of arming — and even of commanding — the rebels, a claim Kigali denies.