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DRC Rebels, Pro-Government Militia's Clash for Second Day


U.N. officials report a second day of fighting between rebels and a pro-government militia in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The officials and witnesses say forces of Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and members of the Mai Mai militia are clashing near the rebel-held town of Rutshuru, in North Kivu province.

U.N. peacekeepers say the clashes broke out Tuesday, shattering a nearly week-old cease-fire called by Nkunda.

The clashes come as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced he will travel to Kenya on Friday for talks with DRC President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame on ending the crisis.

The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing Nkunda's rebels, a charge Rwanda denies.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross began food distributions today to about 200,000 displaced people in seven camps across the region.

The recent fighting in eastern DRC has driven tens of thousands from their homes searching for food, shelter and clean water.

Nkunda has threatened to take the fight all the way to the Congolese capital of Kinshasa if the government rejects direct talks with the rebels.

Eastern Congo has been caught in a cycle of violence for years, driven by ethnic tensions and competition for the region's mineral wealth.

Nkunda says he is protecting minority Tutsis in eastern Congo from Rwandan Hutu militia.

Meanwhile, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says he is keeping a close eye on eastern Congo, where there have been reports of looting, rape and murders of civilians. He says the perpetrators of such crimes will not go unpunished.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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