October 28, 2013 (GOMA) - The Congolese army (FARDC) said on Sunday it had retaken three towns which were initially under control of M23 rebels.
Army Spokesman, Lt. Col. Olivier Hamuli, told The Associated Press that Rutshuru, Kiwanja and Buhumba towns, in Kivu province, near the Congo- Rwanda border had been taken after the rebels were pushed back towards the Rwandan border.
But in a statement posted on social media on Monday, the M23 said they were “pulling out from all plains to take positions in [the] mountains”.
“We are not daft. The coming days will tell”, the rebels said, hinting at possibilities of more fighting in the region.
In Kibumba, one of the towns retaken, FARDC said it had discovered two mass graves. A local official in the area was quoted as saying the army was under instruction not to tamper with the site until investigations by the government and the UN mission in the country (MONUSCO) were complete.
UN PEACEKEEPER KILLED
The UN said a peacekeeper from Tanzania was killed while protecting civilians on Saturday, while another Tanzanian soldier was injured according to Sly Koumbo, the UN information officer.
“The soldier died while protecting the people of Kiwanja”, Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, said in a statement.
The UN has a 3,000-strong intervention brigade in DRC with a mandate to use force.
Although MONUSCO forces have previously fought M23 rebels alongside the Congolese army, it has not been involved in the latest fighting.
Renewed fighting broke out on Friday between M23 rebels and FARDC.
The clashes are the first to occur in two months and come after the collapse of peace talks in Kampala between rebels and the DRC government.
The talks collapsed after a disagreements over a proposed amnesty for rebel fighters and their reintegration into FARDC.
VIOLENCE COULD SPREAD, WARNS US
On Monday, the United States said fresh violence in eastern DRC could drag neighbouring countries into the conflict and urged M23 and the government to resume peace talks.
“There are enormous risks in simply moving forward believing that a military solution is a full answer”, Russell F. Feingold told reporters in Paris after returning from a trip to Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
“It risks bringing in other forces in this matter that could lead to a cross-national war”, said Feingld who is the US special envoy for the Great Lakes
Rwanda has issued a stern warning to DRC, saying it will retaliate amid claims shells fired by the Congolese army injured one person in Rwanda.
“If they are not ready to stop this, we will immediately act and it will hurt”, said Eugene Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s ambassador at the United Nations.
“We will do it with laser precision, we know where it is coming from”, he added.
Rwanda has been accused by both the UN and Congo of supporting M23 rebels. It denies the claims.