Congolese troops take back strategic towns from retreating M23 rebels


Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers are pictured near Kibati, near Goma on September 4, 2013. M23 army mutineers, whose 16-month rebellion had seen them occupying Kibati for over a year, have retreated from their positions in the hills around Goma in the face of an offensive by the military and a new United Nations combat force.



Congolese troops recaptured a key military base from M23 fighters on Monday in the latest victory for the government against rebels eastern Congo.

The town of Rumangabo is the fifth rebel-held town to fall to government forces since last week.

"We are consolidating the zones we have conquered," Congolese army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli told Reuters.

"We will continue to do our jobs as soldiers."

Congolese soldiers are reportedly being welcomed by civilians who suffered abuses at the hands of rebels during their occupation.

Fighting escalated last week after peace talks between the government and rebels in Uganda broke down.

Congo's president Joseph Kabila ruled out a blanket pardon on rebels during the talks, a key demand of rebel leaders to cease the conflict.

Both sides blame each other for the restarting the violence on Friday.

The UN Security Council will discuss the matter at a meeting on Monday.

The fight against the M23 is only the latest chapter of ongoing conflict in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.

The battle against M23 began last year when 1,000 former Congolese soldiers mutinied.

They named themselves M23 or March 23, 2009, the date of the failed peace talks in Congo's long-running civil war.

M23 rebels stormed the city of Goma last November, briefly occupying it after Congolese soldiers fled, raping women and children on their way out.

The M23 are mostly Tutsis and are said to be aided by Rwanda.

The US has called for a halt to the fighting and the UN has urged Rwanda to stop its support for the rebels - support it denies giving.