The M23 rebels have refuted claims made by the military forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Thursday that a massacre this week in the eastern town of Kishishe resulted in the deaths of 50 civilians.
Months of clashes between the Congo’s army and the M23, a Tutsi-led militia, have been taking place in the unrest-ridden east of the nation.
“The M23 Movement rejects the baseless allegations made against it in Kishishe,” the group’s political spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka, said in a statement.
“The M23 reminds the international and national community that it has never targeted civilian populations.”
Although they could not provide specifics, the United Nations and a U.S. official said they also had information about civilian deaths on Tuesday in Kishishe, North Kivu province. Both of them however urged further research.
“We are deeply saddened by the massacre of civilians in Kishishe, which could constitute a war crime,” Stephanie Miley, charge d’affaires for the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa, said on Twitter.
According to a representative for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the organisation had received complaints of serious violations of human rights during battles in Kishishe between the M23 and regional militias.
Experts from the Congo and the U.N. claim that Rwanda, a neighbor, helps the M23; Rwanda has always denied this. Last week, the two nations participated in discussions in Angola aimed at resolving the situation.
One of their agreements stated that if the M23 would not stop fighting and leave its positions, a regional force from the East African Community, EAC, would intervene.
Early this year, the EAC began sending troops into eastern Congo to aid in the conflict with various armed groups. A battalion of 700 South Sudanese soldiers would be sent to join the regional force, according to a spokesman for the South Sudanese army on Thursday.
The two largest cities in the east of the Congo, Goma and Bukavu, saw large crowds of people protesting the deterioration of the security situation earlier on Thursday.
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