News / Africa

Heavy Casualties in Eastern Congo Fighting

Nick Long
Rebel and government forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo suffered heavy casualties in a fifth day of fighting north of the city of Goma.  A doctor near the front line said Sunday medical services are overwhelmed by the number of wounded.

Fighting between the government army and M23 rebels raged overnight Saturday through Sunday at Mujoga, about 17 kilometers north of Goma.

Doctor Isaac Warwanamiza told VOA by phone he was at a field hospital with Tanzanian U.N. troops who are waiting to go up to the front line, and all around him were dead and wounded.  He said he estimates the number of dead that he has seen at the hospital since Sunday morning at 82.

This is not the only transit center for casualties from the fighting between the army and the M23, so the doctor's figure is not a total for the day.

And he could not be sure of the figure. "I can not really count them, he says, because sometimes you think you have got one person, but then you find four arms, or five hands and you realize you are looking at a mixture of different people’s body parts," he said.

Warwanamiza said he had treated 54 wounded by midday Sunday.  He said he was treating government troops and rebels. "Here I am looking at M23 rebels," he said, "and government wounded as well.  If the rebels are badly wounded, he adds, we leave them."

The doctor said this had been the worst day since the fighting resumed on Wednesday and he was overwhelmed by what he has seen.

A chaplain at a military hospital in Goma, Leah Masika, confirmed there were heavy casualties Sunday.

It was not immediately possible to contact official army or M23 spokesmen to get their reaction to these figures.

The fighting Sunday appears to have been at close quarters, as little heavy weapons fire could be heard near the front line.  Since Wednesday the army and U.N. troops have been battling to dislodge the M23 from heights overlooking Goma.

Local sources estimate the army has advanced about two kilometers since Wednesday, but have yet to achieve their immediate objective.

Warwanamiza said the ground they have captured Sunday should be measured in meters, not kilometers, but the government troops have advanced.

M23 controls a narrow strip of territory along the Rwanda and Ugandan borders about 100 kilometers north to south and may have only about 2,000 fighters.  The United Nations has accused Rwanda of reinforcing the rebels.  Rwanda denies the accusation.

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