Thousands flee heavy fighting between Congo army, rebels

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo -Congolese rebels and government forces traded heavy weapons firearound two eastern villages on Friday, forcing thousands ofcivilians to flee towards the provincial capital days ahead of aregional summit due to tackle the rebellion.

The clashes took place around Kibumba and Rugari and UNhelicopter gunships were seen headed towards the frontline, butReuters reporters said there was no sign of an imminent move onGoma, the capital of North Kivu province, some 25 km (15 miles)to the south.

A rebellion launched in April has already forced some260,000 people to flee their homes. UN experts have saidneighboring Rwanda is backing the rebels, prompting the UnitedStates, a key ally of Kigali's, to cut some military aid.

Rwanda denies it is supporting the rebels.

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