The rebel movements north of the North Kivu provincial capital Goma indicated continuing violence and displacement of civilians, despite a ceasefire declared by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda last week when he suspended an offensive against Goma.
"They (the rebels) have taken Nyanzale and Kikuku, therefore breaking their own declared ceasefire. Now it's clear they are trying to have a territory completely under their control," Lt-Col Jean-Paul Dietrich of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUC) told Reuters.
He added U.N. troops and human rights experts were also checking reports that the Tutsi fighters loyal to Nkunda had killed civilians when they drove pro-government Mai-Mai militia from another village, Kiwanja, on Wednesday.
Thousands of Kiwanja residents fled the village in panic to nearby Rutshuru, 70 km (45 miles) north of Goma. Kiwanja was completely deserted on Thursday, witnesses said.
As the United Nations and the African Union prepare a summit of Great Lakes leaders in Nairobi on Friday to try to end the east Congo conflict, aid agencies are scrambling to provide food and medical care to 200,000 refugees crammed into camps around and just north of Goma.
But relief workers say that many more out of over 1 million displaced civilians in the border province are still out of reach of help, either cut off by fighting, hiding in the bush or isolated in zones controlled by rebel and militia forces.
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/) (Reporting by Joe Bavier; Writing by Pascal Fletcher)
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
- For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet