United Nations helicopters have attacked positions of the rebel group M23 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
A DRC spokesman tells VOA French to Africa service there were casualties in Thursday’s exchange. “M23 shelled a small village, Runiga, killing three people according to our sources. Our army had to fight back because we had to protect civilians,” he said.
M23 has withdrawn from several areas it seized last week in Congo’s North Kivu province, but continues to hold at least one town, Bunagana.
In Ethiopia, the DRC and other Central African nations agreed to work to “eradicate” M23 and other rebel groups in eastern Congo.
Also, Rwanda said it has agreed to increase third-party surveillance on its border with Congo. The DRC’s government has accused Rwanda of providing material support to M23, a charge Rwanda denies.
Rwanda’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Thursday that “there is a clear need to rebuild trust amid the swirling allegations over the past several weeks.”
The remarks came from a special meeting in Addis Ababa of the 11-nation International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
Ministers at the conference condemned actions by M23 and the FDLR, a Congo-based Rwandan Hutu rebel group. They pledged to work with the African Union and United Nations to create an international force to defeat both groups and other “negative forces” in the eastern DRC.
Congo has tried for years, with little success, to subdue rebel groups in its volatile and mineral-rich eastern provinces.
M23 is comprised of former soldiers believed to be loyal to Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. The soldiers had been integrated into Congo’s army, but left earlier this year after complaining of their treatment, amid threats by Congolese President Joseph Kabila to arrest Ntaganda.