DR Congo, Jul 8 – Mutineers from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday seized control of three towns in the country’s eastern Nord-Kivu province, an AFP correspondent reported.
The rebels, known as M23, took Rutshuru and the towns of Ntamugenga and Rubare, less than 10 kilometres away on the road to the provincial capital Goma, shortly after 12:00 pm local time (1000 GMT).
The rebels said they did not face any opposition from Congolese government troops (FARDC).
“Our men have just taken the town of Rutshuru. On Saturday evening the FARDC came down to our position at Mbuzi. We decided to pursue them and they lost Ntamugenag, then we came down Rubare,” M23 spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarama told AFP.
Sporadic gunfire was later heard in Rutshuru but it may have been celebratory shots fired into the air.
Eight peacekeepers from the UN’s mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) fled Rutshuru for a UN base five kilometres away in Kiwanja, close to which numerous local inhabitants have set up refugee camps.
Last week a MONUSCO peacekeeper from India was fatally injured in combat between the Congolese army and M23 rebels renegade military group, comprised of former Tutsi rebels, in Bunagana, a town near the Ugandan border about 20 kilometres south of Rutshuru.
Bunagana fell into rebel hands after the clash, according to the M23 spokesman and local civilians, causing around 600 Congolese soldiers to flee into Uganda.
Two months of fighting in the resource-rich region has pitted government troops against former Congolese Tutsi rebels, who were integrated into the army but defected this year and formed the M23 rebel movement.