UN and Congolese gunships attack mutineersBy AFP | Thursday, July 12 2012 at 19:36
The United Nations and Congolese Government Thursday used gunships to attack mutineers perceived to be threatening the main eastern city of Goma.
The UN and the Congolese army, who claim the M23 rebels were a Rwandan proxy, had deployed tanks around Goma but the mutineers said they had no plan to seize the regional capital and only wanted to negotiate with Kinshasa.
Three helicopters from the UN's mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and two from Congolese army (FARDC) were seen around the villages of Nkokwe and Bukima, where the rebels were thought to have some positions.
"The FARDC are currently attacking our positions, but they don't know where we are. There's no problem," a colonel from the mutiny told AFP.
The two locations are on the western border of the Virunga national park, some 50km from Goma.
The M23 mutineers, who defected from the army in April, had launched an offensive in recent days, easily overwhelming the FARDC.
Around 600 regular troops and tens of thousands of civilians were forced to seek refuge in Uganda.
"Our mission is not to go to Goma. We are strong but we are also disciplined," M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama told AFP.
The mutineers had seized a number of towns along the Ugandan border and promptly withdrew from all but Bunagana, a town on the border with Uganda.
"We have pulled out of those towns, our mission is not to control them. What we want is that the Congolese Government sit down at the negotiating table," Mr Kazarama said.
M23 -- named after a failed 2009 peace deal signed on March 23 -- is led by Bosco Ntaganda, a man nicknamed the "Terminator" who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
The mutineers are ex-rebels who were integrated into the regular army in 2009 as part of a deal that followed their failed 2008 offensive on Goma, under the command of Tutsi leader Laurent Nkunda.
They defected in April, ostensibly over pay, but experts argue Gen Ntaganda and his men were flexing military muscle to clinch further rights over the area's lucrative mines.
Almost uninterrupted conflict over DR Congo's vast mineral resources -- which include gold, diamonds, coltan, tin, tungsten and many others -- has left at least two million people dead since 1999, according to rights groups.
A diplomat in Kinshasa said an M23 offensive on Goma appeared unlikely.
"Everything in the way that the mutineers have withdrawn from Rutshuru indicates that they don't intend to take big towns like Goma," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
The DR Congo Government and a UN panel of sanctions experts have said Rwanda was supplying arms and fighters to M23 rebels.
Rwanda has denied involvement.
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