GOMA, Congo ( Associated Press) – Congo’s M23 rebels have captured the eastern city of Bunagana, residents said on Monday, in what appears to be the latest gain in a week-long offensive against rebel forces.
After a night of violent fighting, the rebels captured the city around 8 a.m., according to Innocent Ndagije, a civilian leader in Bungana. He said people fleeing the city reported that more insurgents were coming from Uganda to the nearest border.
“We condemn the M23 rebel attack and call on the Congolese government to track down and neutralize these rebel groups so that state authority can return,” he said.
Bunagana is 60 kilometers (37 mi) northeast of Goma, a city of about 2 million that also serves as a center for international aid organizations and a United Nations peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO. Is.
Bunagana is an important transit point for goods imported into the Congo from as far away as China. A day earlier, a government official accused the rebels of wanting to capture Bunagana to financially paralyze Goma.
There was no immediate confirmation of Bungana’s fall from the Congolese army, which had taken control of the city near the border with Uganda.
However, Ugandan security officials believe the Congolese border town is now “under the control of the M23” of the rebels, said Fred Enanga, a Ugandan police spokesman.
More than 100 Congolese soldiers, fleeing fierce fighting with rebels, crossed the border and “surrendered” to Ugandan authorities, he told reporters, moving Congolese troops to Rutsuru, another eastern Congolese town near the Ugandan border. Will go
A spokesman for North Kivu’s military governor said an official statement from Congolese officials on the situation would be issued later.
About a decade ago, M23 rebels captured Goma and held it for weeks. Part of the peace deal to end that conflict included the induction of rebel fighters into the Congolese army.
However, the rebels recently took up arms again, saying the Congolese government had not fulfilled its promises. Thousands of families have fled their homes as the fighting intensified.
Congolese officials have accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the rebels. Many of the M23 fighters are ethnic Tutsi from Congo and the President of Rwanda is of Rwandan Tutsi descent. The escalation in violence has sharply escalated tensions between the two countries, whose relations have been strained for decades.
Rwanda alleges that the Congo has harbored ethnic Hutus who perpetrated the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which killed at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus. Over the years the two countries have accused each other of supporting various rival armed groups.
Both Rwanda and Uganda deny the claim that they support the M23. The Rwandan army has accused the neighboring Congolese army of injuring several civilians in cross-border shelling.