Congolese M23 rebels capture key North Kivu town

Fighters from the M23 rebel group seized the eastern Congo town of Kiwandja on Saturday, residents and a local official said, cutting off Goma, the capital of North Kivu, from the upper half of the province. . Three people living in Kiwandja told Reuters that many fighters entered the town without resistance after a short firefight. Kivu Security Tracker, which maps violence in eastern Congo, tweeted that shots were fired in the town early Saturday morning.

The Congolese army contingent protecting the town left the day before, residents said. The army has recently made strategic withdrawals from populated areas to draw fighting away from towns and protect civilians. “Kiwanja is an important entity that opens the direct route to Goma,” Saidi Balikwisha Emil, a member of the North Kivu provincial parliament, said in a WhatsApp message.

“The fall of Kiwanja and elsewhere is a national disgrace, especially for those of us who spend days on social media slandering our military, he added. Neither General Sylvain Ekenge, national army spokesman, nor Colonel Ndjike Kaiko, army spokesman for North Kivu, immediately responded to calls and messages seeking comment.

The unrest in North Kivu has broken months of relative calm in eastern Congo after clashes resumed between the army and M23 militants, which Congo accuses neighbor Rwanda of supporting and which Rwanda denies. Army forces have clashed with rebel fighters on several occasions since fighting resumed on October 20, killing at least four civilians and forcing more than 23,000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. Both groups accused the other of initiating the violence.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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