DR Congo: Army 'seizes' eastern towns held by M23 rebels

Congolese soldiers in eastern DR Congo. File photo The Congolese army said it retook the two towns without fighting

The army in the Democratic Republic of Congo says it has recaptured two eastern towns held for months by the M23 rebels.

A military spokesman said the troops moved into Rutshuru and Kiwanja overnight after the rebels had pulled out. There were no reports of fighting.

The M23 earlier this week split into two rival factions, which started fighting each other.

Some 800,000 people have been displaced since the M23 rebellion began in 2012.

The M23 rebels

  • Named after the 23 March 2009 peace accord which they accuse the government of violating
  • This deal saw them join the army before they took up arms once more in April 2012
  • Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
  • Mostly from minority Tutsi ethnic group
  • Deny being backed by Rwanda and Uganda
  • Believed to have 1,200 to 6,000 fighters who briefly seized Goma in November
  • International Criminal Court indicted top commander Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda in 2006 for allegedly recruiting child soldiers
  • The UN and US have imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on the group's leader, Sultani Makenga and political leader Jean-Marie Runiga
  • Splits reported in February 2013, a month after peace talks began in Kampala

Last week, regional African leaders signed a UN-brokered accord to end the conflict.

Commander sacked

Congolese army spokesman Col Olivier Hamuli told Reuters that the two towns - near the border with Uganda - were now "under government control".

"It is for us, the regular forces, to take our responsibilities and secure them (the towns) against the pillaging, rape and killings," he added.

Local residents in Rutshuru and Kiwanja confirmed that the army was now patrolling the towns.

Earlier this week, clashes erupted between two rival rebel factions.

The violence followed the sacking of the M23 political leader, Jean-Marie Runiga.

Mr Runiga is allied to Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel commander wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges.

About 4,500 people fled to Uganda after the clashes between the rival factions.

The M23 - mostly made up of fighters from the Tutsi minority group who deserted from the army - launched a rebellion against the DR Congo government 11 months ago, briefly seizing Goma, the main city in the east, in November.

Uganda - and also neighbouring Rwanda - have both denied UN allegations that they are backing the group.

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