Thousands of people living near DR Congo’s eastern border with Uganda fled their homes after unidentified assailants attacked army positions overnight, civilian and military sources said on Monday.
“The M23 insurrection movement attacked the FARDC positions in Rutshuru with the intention of destabilizing the province. At present, the fighting is underway and the loyalist forces are determined to put an end to this armed group once and for all,” said General Sylvain Ekenge, the deputy spokesman for the Congolese military, also known as FARDC.
A Senior Military source disclosed that assailants launched the attacks around 2000 GMT on Sunday, the sources said that heavy and small-arms fire went on into the early hours, prompting local people to flee.
Local officials and the Red Cross in the Kisoro region bordering Uganda said roughly 5,000 people had poured across the border and the area was “overwhelmed”.
According to local official Rukundo Manasseh, they included older people, women and children, and they had no access to basic amenities like water or shelter
The arrivals were being taken to a transit centre in Nyakabande, said Kisoro Red Cross chief Primrose Natukunda.
The attacks took place near Bunagana in Rutshuru Territory, part of the troubled eastern DR Congo province of North Kivu.
The assailants overran the position of a paramilitary guard, stationed in the area to protect the Virunga National Park, a renowned conservation site, the Congolese sources said.
Some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from regional capital Goma, Bunagana is a key border post and transit point for goods headed to Goma.
“Several armed forces positions were attacked overnight Sunday in a strategic zone on the border between the DRC and Uganda,” communication minister Patrick Muyaya also confirmed the attack
The provinces of North Kivu and Ituri have been under a “state of siege” for months to support a military offensive aimed at neutralising armed groups.
The M23 group, however, denied that they are behind attacks or fighting with the military or government in a statement Monday.
According to the Uganda Red Cross, the fighting has forced a heavy influx of people to flee to Uganda.
On Monday, the group said it deployed a team to assess needs among people fleeing the fighting overnight between unknown armed groups. Spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita said hundreds were camping at the border post of Bunagana, seeking shelter in Uganda.
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