Well-armed rebels are advancing in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and are threatening to take over the city of Goma. The national army backed by United Nations peacekeepers has been trying to stop their advance.
The U.N. deployed attack helicopters to stave off the M23 rebels, who broke away from the Congolese army in April and are headed by alleged war criminal Gen. Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda. Last month, neighboring Rwanda was accused of propping up the rebel fighters. In the past several days the rebels have launched a new offensive in restive North Kivu, using heavy weapons, the U.N. said Saturday.
The fresh attacks by the M23 prompted the U.N. Security Council to convene on how to best deal with the rebels. Members of the council expressed concern over the “rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crisis” because of the M23’s offensive.
“The members of the Security Council demand that any and all outside support and supply of equipment to the M23 cease immediately,” reads a press statement from the Security Council, without elaborating on what entity is providing outside support to the rebels. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon also telephoned Rwandan President Paul Kagame and foreign minister of the DRC, Raymond Tshibanda, over the deteriorating situation and his office said they spoke of ways to resolve the crisis.
North Kivu is rich in natural resources, including a number of illegal gold mines worked by children, according to the Enough Project. The M23 is trying to re-establish control over the gold trade by taking over areas in the province.
In Goma, the capital of North Kivu, members of the national army were seen fleeing in large numbers while hundreds of civilians also left as M23 rebels advanced, reported Al-Jazeera, citing a source with the U.N. The Goma airport was closed Sunday and U.N. staff was told to stay inside.
A spokesman with the M23 told the network that the rebels “will respond” if the U.N. peacekeeping force attacks them. The rebels apparently are very well equipped, with night-vision goggles and mortars.
Around 4,000 new people have fled to the Kanyaruchinya site, which already holds around 80,000 internally displaced persons, near the town of Kibati, the U.N. said.
Last week, the U.N. accused rebel groups, including the M23, of carrying out hundreds of brutal and arbitrary killings of civilians in North and South Kivu. Some victims were hacked with machetes or set on fire.
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