Kinshasa, Jan 26 (EFE).- The number of civilians killed in Thursday’s bombings amid confrontations between the army and the rebel group March 23 Movement in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo increased from 19 to 27, a civil society leader informed EFE.
“The number of civilians killed in these bombings by the M23 rebels has increased,” the spokesman for the Mweso civil society and a refugee in Goma, Julien Kiangumba, told EFE in a phone call.
“We discovered eight bodies of civilians who lived in this town liberated by the forces of Wazalendo (militia) and FARDC (Armed Forces of the DRC),” he added.
“This town occupied by the M23 rebels was liberated by the Wazalendo self-defense forces and, angry, these M23 rebels, who fled towards the center of Mweso, began to throw bombs, causing casualties among civilians,” Kiangumba said.
The army and the M23 blamed each other for the attack, which occurred about twenty kilometers from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
The FARDC assured on Thursday that the M23, supported by the army of neighboring Rwanda, launched 120 mortar bombs against Mweso after it failed to undermine the army’s position and lost control of the town.
It added that this “terrorist act” constituted “a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”
The M23 rebel group became known ten years ago when its fighters seized Goma, eastern Congo’s largest city on the border with Rwanda.
Its name refers to a March 23, 2009, peace deal that it accuses the government of failing to implement.
The M23 re-emerged in March 2022 after several years of low activity, and in a few months managed to occupy numerous strategic areas and localities in the east of the DRC.
However, it withdrew from some of them in mid-2023 under pressure from the leaders of the East African Community.
Fighting resumed on Oct. 1 after months of relative calm.
The M23 offensive escalated tensions between the DRC and Rwanda over Kigali’s alleged collaboration with the rebel group, which Rwandan authorities have denied despite it having been confirmed by the UN.
Rwanda and the M23, in turn, have accused the Congolese army of collaborating with the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which was founded in 2000 by ringleaders of the 1994 genocide and other Hutu Rwandans exiled in the DRC.
Since 1998, the eastern DRC has been in a conflict fueled by rebel militias and the army, despite the presence of Monusco, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. EFE