, KINSHASA, September 13 – UN peacekeepers shot and killed rebel fighters in DRCongo on Friday as a renegade Tutsi leader said he had asked his troops to withdraw from positions taken over by government forces, military sources said.
Members of MONUC, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fired on rebel fighters from Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), military sources in Kinshasa said.
Though no exact numbers were made available, the sources said the UN troops killed and injured "several" rebels near Sake — some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma — and in the town of Shasha — two kilometres south of Kirotshe, the sources said.
MONUC confirmed in a statement that its peacekeepers "had shot on elements of the CNDP, when they tried to take control" of towns where the peacekeepers are positioned, but did not provide any toll.
The incidents came on the same day as Nkunda said he asked his troops "to unilaterally and immediately pull back from all positions taken on all fronts since the resumption of hostilities in the past days."
The announcement was made in a letter from the former government army general to the UN representative in Democratic Republic of Congo, Alan Doss, of which AFP received a copy.
"This pull-back has been ordered to allow aid workers to access our most needy compatriots and to give peace (in the troubled Nord-Kivu region) another chance," he said.
Nkunda also called on MONUC, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, to allow his troops to pass freely to regain their earlier positions, describing the retreat as a "last gesture of good will" and warning that if clashes broke out again, his forces "would respond with the greatest vigour."
UN peacekeepers earlier sent troops to hotspots in the east of the country to handle the fallout of increased fighting there between the rebels and the army.
MONUC, which has 14,000 peacekeepers deployed in the country, moved troops from Sud-Kivu and Ituri towards Nord-Kivu, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, a spokesman said.
Fighting between government troops, the FARDC, and rebels of the CNDC broke out in Nord-Kivu on August 28, with both sides blaming each other for the violence.
On Thursday international mediators — notably the UN, the African Union, the United States, the European Union — called on Nkunda to "immediately cease" military action in the recently occupied regions and on both sides to return to positions they occupied before August 28.
The fighting, which violates the Goma peace accords signed in January, has continued despite efforts of UN peacekeepers to intervene.