Thousands flee rebel clashes in eastern Congo

March 1, 2013 14:24
1 minute read.


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KINSHASA - Thousands of Congolese civilians fled to neighboring Uganda on Friday to escape clashes between rival rebel factions, one of them led by Bosco Ntaganda, a renegade general wanted on war-crimes charges, witnesses said.

Fighting in eastern Congo spilled into a second day after the M23 rebel group's military command sacked the group's political leader on Thursday for his links with Ntaganda, prompting fighters to turn their weapons on each other.

The violence risks complicating attempts to find a lasting peace in the region and exacerbating a dire humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands have been driven out of their homes by conflict in recent years.

Around 6,000 residents of the border town of Bunagana began crossing into Uganda on Thursday and Friday as fighting edged closer, residents said. Light and heavy weapons fire continued through the night in hills around the town, as Ntaganda's men attacked positions held by M23's military commander Sultani Makenga.

"It started at around midnight and we can still hear the bullets and bombs. It's Makenga's men who control the town ... Most of the town has fled. I'm at home but my family has already left," said Damien Batimaha, a local community leader.

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