Thousands flee amid Congo clashes

Other News Materials 21 October 2007 03:31 (UTC +04:00)

(BBC) Thousands of people are fleeing a fresh outbreak of fighting in Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Clashes between local militias and the dissident army general, Laurent Nkunda, in Bunagana sent refugees flooding into the nearby town of Rutshuru.

There are also reports of fighting between government forces and rebels in Bukima town, in the same district.

The clashes follow government threats to Gen Nkunda's troops to reintegrate into the army or face an offensive.

Gen Nkunda ignored a Monday deadline to begin disarming his troops.

The deadline has since been extended to an unspecified date, and government troops have advanced on Gen Nkunda's stronghold of Kichanga in the past week.

More than 370,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in eastern DR Congo since the start of the year, and on Saturday thousands more were on the move, trying to escape fresh outbreaks of violence.

Early in the morning refugees began arriving in Rutshuru in North Kivu province, reports said.

They had fled from the border town of Bunagana, where clashes were occurring between Congolese Mai Mai militias and Gen Nkunda's forces.

"What I saw was horrendous. It was raining. They didn't know where to go. Three women gave birth while they were fleeing," Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, a spokeswoman in North Kivu province for the UN peacekeeping mission Monuc, told Reuters news agency.