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04 Dec 2007 13:35
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) troops clashed with rebels in the country’s east for a second straight day on Tuesday as they sought to take control of a strategic village, the army said.
“We restarted the offensive early this morning [Tuesday],” said Colonel Jonas Padiri, whose troops have been fighting insurgents loyal to former general Laurent Nkunda in the Nord-Kivu province.
The army was trying to retake the village of Mushake, which Padiri said was a “strategic position for the insurgents”.
Fighting in the past two days has killed four soldiers and injured about 20, according to General Vainqueur Mayala, who commands army forces in Nord-Kivu. He did not have details on insurgent casualties.
“The operations are continuing.
Things are going well,” he said.
Heavy clashes have occurred in Nord-Kivu since late August between about 20 000 army troops and about 4 000 insurgent soldiers.
The fighting has displaced between 400 000 and 500 000 civilians, according to the United Nations.
On Monday, the army took back several villages from insurgents around the town of Sake, about 30km north-west of the provincial capital, Goma, amid intense battles.
Mushake sits on a hill about 10km west of Sake and has been held by insurgents since August.
“They are continuing to attack us,” dissident Colonel Esaie Munyakazi said by telephone from Mushake on Tuesday. “The fighting is violent, but they will not force us out.”
A military spokesperson for the UN mission in the DRC, Major Vivek Goyal, said insurgents had put up “strong resistance” and had likely been provided with reinforcements.
The United States recently urged Nkunda—a Congolese Tutsi who claims to be protecting his community from Rwandan Hutu rebels—to surrender and go into exile to avoid a bloody showdown with the army.—Sapa-AFP
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