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Fighting Starts in Bukavu after Dissident Soldiers Pull Out - 2004-06-07


Fighting has begun in the eastern city of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, just one day after a group of dissident soldiers relinquished control of the town.

Witnesses say firefights broke out in one neighborhood of Bukavu on Monday. The United Nations says there are still dissident soldiers in the city but it is not clear who was involved in the fighting or if anyone was injured.

Bukavu has been the scene of looting and reports of rapes since it was seized last week by an army of renegade soldiers led by General Laurent Nkunda.

General Nkunda pulled back his troops to the north of the city Sunday. But there is another faction of the dissident soldiers under the command of Colonel Jules Mutebutsi. The United Nations ordered those troops to stay in camps on the outskirts of the city.

U.N. spokesman Hamadoun Toure says peacekeepers are working to stabilize Bukavu.

"We are trying to calm down the situation in Bukavu to have the complete withdrawal of General Nkunda's troops so that we can restore calm and legality to let the governor and the appointed vice governor come and take up their responsibilities," he said.

Two U.N. peacekeepers died Sunday after they were ambushed by gunmen on a road north of Bukavu,

According to U.N. spokeswoman Jacqueline Chenard, the gunmen attacked two vehicles carrying 30 South African peacekeepers and the deaths occurred when a vehicle overturned.

"There was an exchange of fire and after that the armed men fled in the forest, in the bush," she said. "One element of the South African military was injured in the foot during the attack. And as they were going back for assistance, one of the trucks capsized. They had a terrible accident and consequently two died and 11 were injured."

There was a ceremony at the Kavumu airport north of Bukavu early Monday in memory of the peacekeepers who died.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister of former colonial power Belgium, Louis Michel, is visiting Congo to discuss the potential deployment of European Union peacekeepers to help bolster the U.N. operation.

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