U.N. begins helicopter attacks on rebels in east Congo
U. N. attack helicopters targeted M23 rebels in eastern Congo on Saturday after fighting resumed after a months-long lull in violence, a...
The Associated Press
KINSHASA, Congo — U.N. attack helicopters targeted M23 rebels in eastern Congo on Saturday after fighting resumed after a months-long lull in violence, a local official said.
Two army officers and 151 rebels were killed in a battle beginning Thursday that the U.N. called the worst clash between the M23 group and the military since July. Attack helicopters for the U.N. mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, had been on standby.
"MONUSCO helicopters this morning bombarded the M23 positions in the city of Kibumba," said North Kivu Gov. Julien Paluku. He said the Congolese army had earlier retreated from Kibumba, which is 19 miles north of Goma, after thousands of Rwandans, who he says were backing the rebels, attacked Saturday.
"The fighting was very violent between the Congolese military and the M23 rebels backed by the Rwandan army," he said. "Rwandan forces bombarded our positions in Kibumba since early this morning, and an estimated 3,500 crossed the border to attack us."
Reports by United Nations experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebels. Both countries strongly deny any involvement. Uganda said if the charges continue it will pull its peacekeeping troops out of Somalia where they are playing an important role in pushing out the Islamist extremist rebels.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, the Security Council held an emergency meeting Saturday at the request of France to discuss the flare-up of violence in eastern Congo.
"I do hope that we will get a signal from the council telling them, M23, to stop this advance," said the French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud on his way into the chamber.
The M23 was created after officers from the Congolese army defected in April and May and launched a rebellion to demand better pay, armaments and amnesty from war crimes.
Paluku said the country faces a humanitarian crisis as those displaced are moving toward Kanyaruchinya.
AP writer Maria Sanminiatelli contributed to this report.