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Rebel Fighting Breaks Out in Congo's North Kivu

  • VOA News

A Congolese army (FARDC) soldier stands outside the deserted town of Kibumba, May 8, 2012.

A Congolese army (FARDC) soldier stands outside the deserted town of Kibumba, May 8, 2012.

The army in the Democratic Republic of Congo is reporting heavy fighting with ex-soldiers who have formed a rebel force.

Officials said the fighting broke out late Thursday near the town of Bunagana in the troubled North Kivu province.

The mutineers say they are members of M23, an offshoot of the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) rebel group led by ex-soldier Bosco Ntaganda. The offshoot, M23, is led by his close ally Sultani Makenga.

Pro-Ntaganda soldiers began deserting the army early last month, complaining of low pay and difficult conditions in the military.

Fighting erupted between the rebels and the military in late April. The military instituted a five-day cease-fire that ended Wednesday, in hopes of getting some of the mutineers to re-join the army.

Officials say many mutineers have returned, but the rebels are still fighting.

Ntaganda is in hiding. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.

The United Nations says thousands of people have fled North Kivu to escape the violence, some going to neighboring Uganda. The army desertions have left much of both North and South Kivu without regular military protection.

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

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