, KINSHASA July 31- The United Nations threatened to use force against M23 rebel forces near Goma city, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, if they do not disarm within 48 hours.
A new UN intervention brigade will be used for the first time to help the DR Congo army set up a “security zone” in the city, the international body said.
A statement by the UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, gave M23 rebels around Goma until 4:00 pm local time (1400 GMT) on Thursday “to hand in their weapons to a MONUSCO base” and join a demobilisation programme.
After then, “they will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement”.
The UN-proposed security zone includes Goma and its northern suburbs.
The M23, a mainly Tutsi Congolese group founded in 2012, launched a new offensive against the DR Congo army outside Goma on July 14.
Diplomats say fighting in the past two weeks has left hundreds dead.
“The M23 has used indiscriminate and indirect fire, including by heavy weapons, resulting in civilian casualties,” MONUSCO said.
“The M23 has also targeted UN installations with its fire. The security zone will push these indirect fire threats out of range of Goma.
“The security zone may be expanded and repeated elsewhere, where it is needed,” the statement said.
The new heavily armed 3,000 strong UN intervention brigade in eastern DR Congo is drawn in roughly equal numbers from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania.