Aid workers to be evacuated as DRC rebels advance

United Nations peacekeepers prepared to evacuate about 50 foreign aid workers from a town in violence-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday as Tutsi rebels advanced towards it, officials said.

The rebels fought their way along a strategic road towards the town of Rutshuru, about 100km north of North Kivu’s provincial capital, Goma, early on Tuesday, drawing within 10km of Rutshuru.

“The convoy is being prepared now, but hasn’t left yet,” a spokesperson for UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA told Reuters of the evacuation plan. “It will leave today. Normally there are about 50 staff in Rutshuru and surrounding areas.”

UN-backed Radio Okapi also reported clashes around Kibumba, 20km north of Goma, which saw heavy exchanges of fire on Monday when rebel forces said they had forced the Congolese army from their positions there.

Both Rutshuru and Kibumba shelter tens of thousands of internal refugees displaced by years of fighting in eastern Congo.

Tutsi insurgents loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda launched a major offensive on Sunday, advancing to within 20km of Goma, destroying two UN armoured vehicles and forcing thousands of civilians to flee south towards Goma town.

Local people angered by the fighting and the failure of UN peacekeepers to prevent the rebel advance rioted at the UN base in Goma on Monday and one person was killed, a UN spokesperson said late on Monday.—Reuters

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