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05 Dec 2007 11:13
Democratic Republic of Congo troops entered Mushake, a strategic eastern village, on Tuesday after a second day of heavy clashes with rebel soldiers, officers said.
“Fighting is still going on in Mushake. We are conducting a search operation throughout the area before confirming the conquest of this position,” said Colonel Delphin Kahimbi, second-in-command of the army in Nord-Kivu province.
However, an officer on the ground said the village had fallen under army control.
“I am now in Mushake.
Mushake fell after violent combat this evening between the 14th brigade and the insurgents,” said Colonel John Tshibangu.
Mushake is considered a strategic position for insurgents loyal to former general Laurent Nkunda in Nord-Kivu.
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.
“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 UN.
The army took back several villages from insurgents around the town of Sake, about 30km north-west of the provincial capital Goma, on Monday.
Mushake sits on a hill about 10km west of Sake and has been held by insurgents since August. The army wanted to retake the village before moving north.
“They are continuing to attack us,” said dissident colonel Esaie Munyakazi from Mushake on earlier on Tuesday. “The fighting is violent but they will not force us out.”
A military spokesperson for the United Nations mission in DRC, Major Vivek Goyal, said insurgents had put up “strong resistance” and had probably 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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