Congolese helicopters blast rebel positions By AFP | Tuesday, July 23  2013 at  14:36

Congolese army soldiers walk ahead of a tank through Kanyarucinya, near Goma. Army helicopters have started firing at M23 rebel positions. PHOTO | AFP 

Three Congolese army helicopters on Tuesday blasted positions of the rebel M23 movement near the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) provincial capital of Goma.

“Our helicopters have just bombarded enemy positions,” a Congolese officer told said on the frontlines after AFP journalists witnessed the attack.

“Until now the enemy has not yet responded,” he added.

These were the first attacks since fighting on Monday, which began in the morning and ended in the afternoon.

The M23 movement said Monday it was only four kilometres (2.5 miles) from Goma, although it stressed its aim was to force the government to negotiate rather than to take the city.

The M23 occupied Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, for 10 days in November before withdrawing from the city under international pressure and in return for a dialogue with Kinshasa.

The troubled dialogue began in the Ugandan capital Kampala in December.

But after a truce of around two months, the army and the M23 resumed fighting on July 14. According to the United Nations, the fighting has caused 4,200 people to flee their homes.

The M23 has been active since May 2012 in the mineral-rich province of North Kivu. It is mainly composed of Congolese Tutsi who were integrated into the army following a 2000 peace accord. They mutinied in April 2012 saying the accord was never fully respected.

Kinshasa and the United Nations have accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23, which have drawn denials from the DRC’s two neighbouring countries.