United Nations and rebel sources say fighting has flared up again
between government and rebel troops in the eastern Democratic Republic
A spokesman, Betrand Bisimwa, for fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda says government troops attacked rebel positions early Wednesday in Rugari and several other villages in North Kivu province.
A U.N. spokesman also reported fighting in the North Kivu villages of Nyanzale and Bambo, north of the regional capital of Goma.
Heavy fighting erupted last month between DRC troops and the rebels, jeopardizing an eight-month-old peace process.
Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood has called the recent fighting an unfortunate step backwards after General Nkunda agreed to a cease-fire and pull-back earlier this month.
The spokesman said Tuesday that the fighting of the last several days has led to hundreds of deaths and the displacement of thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire.
Wood called on both sides to accept a disengagement plan offered by the U.N. Mission to Congo and recommit themselves to peace talks.
The clashes violate a cease-fire agreement signed in January between Nkunda's militia and the Congolese army.
Congo's North Kivu province remains the most volatile area of a country still recovering from a civil war between 1998 and 2002. The war killed an estimated four million people, most of whom died from hunger and disease.
General Nkunda formed his militia in 2004, saying he needed to defend Tutsi civilians against Hutu rebels who are originally from neighboring Rwanda.