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UN says special force ready to fight Congo rebels

19 july 2013, 14:36
The United Nations said Thursday it is ready to send troops into battle against rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after demonstrators accused peacekeepers of being too weak, AFP reports.

UN troops in DR Congo have stayed on the sidelines as M23 rebels have launched a new offensive on government forces around the major eastern city of Goma.

The UN mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, "has not been involved in the hostilities," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

"The mission remains on high alert and is prepared to intervene, including through the Force Intervention Brigade, should the fighting threaten civilians, particularly in Goma," the spokesman added.

The fighting around Goma eased on Thursday. But demonstrations were held in the city with some people accusing the UN force of not giving government forces enough support, according to witnesses.

The new intervention brigade is being assembled in Goma to take on M23 and other armed groups.

So far only about 2,000 of the 3,000 troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi are in place. It has carried out patrols but not yet launched any of the offensive operations it has a mandate to use from the UN Security Council.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon is "deeply concerned" about the new hostilities around the North Kivu province capital, said Nesirky. "The secretary general urges all parties to exercise utmost restraint and prevent an escalation of the conflict and a deeper humanitarian crisis."

The M23 launched its offensive on Sunday and the DR Congo army said at least 130 people have been killed. The UN said it is reviewing cooperation with the DR Congo army after government troops were pictured desecrating the bodies of dead rebels.

The fighting has been accompanied by increased tensions between DR Congo and neighboring Rwanda, which UN experts say has backed the rebels.

Rwanda has accused DR Congo forces of shelling two villages on its side of the border this week. The Congo government has in turn said Rwandan "special units" were fighting with the M23 around Goma.

"Those accusations are not accurate," Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's deputy UN ambassador, told AFP.

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