Fighting resumes near eastern DR Congo town
The factions battled for two hours near Bukavu airport Monday evening, but the night was calm.
The source from the UN's mission in DRC, MONUC, said fighting resumed Tuesday morning around 10:30 am.
Mortar and gunfire could be heard from the airport, which lies about 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the town.
The head of the so-called "dissident" faction, General Laurent Nkunda, a former rebel brought into the army under peace accords to end DRC's five-year war, pledged Monday night to observe a unilateral ceasefire and not to advance south to Bukavu town.
The head of the opposing faction, army General Felix Budja Mabe, seemed less amenable when he spoke to AFP Tuesday morning, before it became clear fighting had resumed.
"They should leave my (military) region. That is a condition of the ceasefire," he said, explaining that MONUC had asked him to reciprocate Nkunda's offer pending mediation.
Nkunda is posted to Nord-Kivu province, while Bukavu is in Sud-Kivu.
According to MONUC spokesman Sebastien Lapierre, "the fighing resumed at Miti," a village seven kilometres (four miles) south of the airport controlled by Nkunda, who is thought to have about 1,000 men with him.
"It is too early to say who is advancing where," he added.
Another MONUC source, who asked not to be named, said Mabe's men had begun moving north towards the airport, controlled by MONUC but surrounded Monday by Nkunda's men.
Several local residents told AFP Nkunda's men had been forced to pull back from some areas.
Clashes in and around Bukavu have claimed some 50 lives since Wednesday last week.
Nkunda has justified his march south with the need to protect Bukavu's Banyamulenge population, Congolese Tutsis who speak the language of Rwanda and whose relations with the rest of the local population have for decades been a source of tension and instability.
The town of Bukavu was quiet Tuesday morning.
Nkunda said two of his men were killed in Monday night's clash.
"Our adversaries came to attack us near Miti. We responded but haven't changed our position," he told AFP.
"We still undertake to respect the ceasefire," he added.
General Mabe also promised "not to shoot first" and said he did not know who had started the previous night's skirmish.
"MONUC asked me not to confront Nkunda's men while mediation is going on," he added.
MONUC's spokesman in Bukavu, Sebastian Lapierre, told AFP the force "was continuing to work on building contacts with the two parties to conclude a bilateral ceasefire."
Another group of so-called dissident troops inside Bukavu, led by another former rebel who has been suspended from his army post, appeared to have obeyed MONUC's weekend order to pull back to designated sites in the town.
Meanwhile in the Nord-Kivu capital, Goma, a government delegation including several former rebels returned to their hotel Tuesday after spending a day under MONUC's protection.
"The situation is less tense in town, where shops and schools that were closed Monday reopened Tusday," said MONUC's Goma spokeswoman, Jacqueline Chendard.
Copyright (c) 2004 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 06/01/2004 07:14:41
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