DR Congo army pushes rebels back

Other News Materials 14 November 2008 13:18 (UTC +04:00)

Government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have pushed rebels back at the frontline north of the eastern city of Goma, reported BBC.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says the army has advanced by about 5km into what was rebel-held territory.

In Goma, hundreds of women are expected to join a protest shortly to demand peace and protection for the region.

Aid workers have warned that thousands of people at a camp near Goma should be moved in case fighting breaks out.

More than 60,000 displaced people are at the Kibati camp, close to the frontline separating government troops and rebels loyal to Gen Laurent Nkunda.

They are among 250,000 who have fled the violence which flared in August.

Fighting has stopped aid from reaching Kibati and forced many there to flee south to the provincial capital, Goma.

Our correspondent says the frontline north of Goma is now just beyond two strategic hills on top of which government forces have placed spotters and artillery.

On the road below the two sides are separated by a dormant lava field created by a nearby volcano, Mount Nyiragongo.

The distance between the nearest opposing troops is just a few hundred metres, he says.

On the rebel side of the line he saw rebel soldiers consolidating their own, high, ground - more hills from which they could target the government forces on the road below.

The United Nations peacekeeping force in DR Congo wants the two sides to move further apart to minimise the possibility of accidental clashes which could exacerbate the already disastrous humanitarian situation.

The US and UK have urged the UN Security Council to approve a 3,000 troop reinforcement of the UN 17,000-strong mission in DR Congo.

UN troops have reinforced their positions in Goma and say they will prevent the rebels from taking the city, as they have threatened.

On Thursday, Gen Nkunda's rebels - who are demanding protection from Rwandan Hutu rebels who fled to DR Congo after Rwanda's 1994 genocide - told the AFP news agency they had advanced to the outskirts of the strategic town of Kanyabayonga 100km (60 miles) north of Goma.

ICRC coordinator Ian Byram on the continuing aid relief in Kibati

Government forces were accused of looting and raping civilians there earlier in the week.

The UN has accused both sides of war crimes during the latest upsurge in violence.

On Friday, women dressed in black are expected to gather at a sports stadium in Goma housing thousands of people who have fled the fighting.

A spokesman for the charity ActionAid told the BBC cases of rape and violence against women have risen dramatically since the latest fighting broke out.