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Thousands Flee Fresh Fighting in Eastern Congo

Fresh fighting broke out this week in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N. aid workers warned on Friday that about 4,000 civilians have been displaced during the clashes.

After several weeks of relative calm, violence has returned to Congo's east. Rival factions of Congo's still divided army clashed this week, with fighting continuing through Friday.

Former Rwandan-backed rebels and government loyalist militia fighters, known as the Mai Mai, have clashed, reportedly over an attempt by the Mai Mai to join the ranks of the Congolese army in South-, rather than, North Kivu.

U.N. aid workers say at least 4,000 civilians appear to have been displaced by the fighting, which took place just south of the lakeside town of Goma.

UNICEF, the United Nations children's agency, said it was investigating reports by local authorities that the numbers of displaced could be much higher, and that there were more clashes farther south.

Shannon Strother, UNICEF's emergency officer, says, once an assessment of the needs of the displaced had been carried out, and access had been granted, aid workers would provide assistance.

Congo is struggling to recover from a five-year war that sucked in six neighboring countries and killed 3 million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

A transitional government has been set up to steer Africa's third-largest country to elections next year, but the peace process has faltered, and a fresh rebellion in the east earlier this year threatened to plunge Congo back into war.

Fueling tensions is a lack of trust between former warring factions that are now part of the government and the supposedly newly unified army.