Clashes between army forces and rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have left at least 130 people dead, including 10 soldiers, the government says.
“Our forces have inflicted very heavy losses on the M23 (March 23 Movement) fighters, 120 have been killed and 12 captured,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said on Monday, referring to clashes that erupted over the weekend.
Mende added that the violent clashes which broke out on Sunday in North Kivu Province between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels also killed 10 soldiers.
He further said the death toll from the fighting is not yet definitive, stressing that “until now the army forces have responded with bravery and efficiency to this attack.”
The Congolese spokesman went on to say that army forces succeeded in recapturing the positions which had been previously held by rebels as they escaped.
Reports say that some 2,000 soldiers were dispatched during the skirmishes. However, Mende did not confirm the figure.
Some 3,000 UN troops have recently been deployed to the region. The troops that are from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, are joining about 17,000 UN soldiers already sent to the area.
Meanwhile on Sunday, the Uganda Red Cross (URC) said more than 60,000 refugees from the DRC have crossed into Uganda since July 11 to escape clashes between the Congolese army and a group of Ugandan rebels at a border town.
The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore, cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cellphones.
Since early May 2012, more than three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but some 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
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