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Fighting in Eastern Congo Continues for 3rd Day

The United Nations says fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo continued Wednesday. The Congolese government and neighboring Rwanda have traded accusations yet again over who is involved. The Congolese government and neighboring Rwanda have traded accusations yet again over who is involved.

The government in Kinshasa repeated its assertions that the Rwandan army was fighting alongside the former rebels that Kigali-backed during Congo's war, but are supposed to be part of the integrated Congolese army. Rwanda has rejected the claims. But officials there insist they are still ready to send soldiers into Congo to hunt down Rwandan Hutu rebels that have been based in eastern Congo for over a decade, ever since they took part in the 1994 killing of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The U.N. says it has heard the allegations of Rwandan involvement, and the reported capture of two Rwandan soldiers by the Congolese government, but refuses to speculate on the matter until its peacekeepers have proof. But a spokeswoman for the mission did confirm that the town of Kanyabayonga, 180 kilometers north of Goma, was in the hands of the 8th military region, which is still controlled by the former Rwandan backed rebels.

Meanwhile, the mission also announced Wednesday that its peacekeepers had clashed with armed men that tried to bring their boats into the lakeside town of Bukavu, further south. There were no casualties, but the UN said that after a ten minute gunfight, the three boats carrying the gunmen returned toward Rwanda.

Congo is struggling to consolidate peace deals and prepare for elections in June next year, after a five year war that sucked in six neighboring countries. But tensions with tiny Rwanda resurfaced when Kigali threatened to send troops into Congo to hunt down the Hutu rebels and Kinshasa responded by sending reinforcements into North Kivu, a province where Rwanda maintains a strong influence.

The clashes this week have dispersed tens of thousands more civilians. An aid agency last week reported that 3.8 million people have died, mostly from hunger and disease, since the war began in 1998.