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Eastern DRC: fighting again shifts the balance in North Kivu

Eastern DRC: fighting again shifts the balance in North Kivu
An escort of Kenyan and Congolese military personnel stands guard at the airport i   -  
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ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Violent fighting broke out over the weekend between M23 rebels and pro-government soldiers and armed groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, once again shifting the balance of power around a strategic town in Masisi territory, sources told AFP on Sunday.

"We have taken refuge in the parish, the M23 rebels have been in Kitshanga since yesterday (Saturday)", said one resident. Several of the wounded have been taken to hospital, a health source said. "This (Sunday) morning, there is no more fighting, but we are still afraid to go out," added this source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The rebels are in Kitshanga and we are trying to find a way to retake the town," a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity. "The war is not going to stop, we're going to carry on", said a spokesman for one of the armed groups who describe themselves as "patriots" fighting the rebels.

According to the security source, fighting was under way on Sunday in another part of North Kivu province, in the neighbouring territory of Rutshuru.

Kitshanga, located at a crossroads in the Masisi region, some 80 km north-west of the provincial capital Goma, has changed hands several times since the beginning of the war.

The M23 (March 23 Movement), a Tutsi-dominated rebellion supported by Rwanda according to many sources, took the town in January, continuing its conquest of vast swathes of territory. After six months of precarious calm, clashes resumed around three weeks ago.

At the beginning of October, the town passed from the hands of the EAC-RF (an East African force supposed to provide a buffer zone between the belligerents) to local militias, then to the M23, who took it back for less than 24 hours, before handing it over to the armed groups and the army.

On 14 October, the army, which claims to be respecting a ceasefire ordered by a regional mediator, organised a press trip there, before the town fell back under rebel control a week later.

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