GOMA, Congo (AP) — The Congolese army took three towns in eastern Congo Sunday in fresh fighting against the M23 rebels, said the army spokesman.
The army says it has found two mass graves in Kibumba, a town it took on Saturday, according to the provincial governor. The army on Sunday gained control of Rutshuru, Kiwanja and Buhumba towns in the Rutshuru area of North Kivu province, near Congo's border with Rwanda, army spokesman Lt. Col. Olivier Hamuli told The Associated Press.
It was not possible to independently verify that the army holds those three towns. A United Nations peacekeeper, a lieutenant from Tanzania, was killed in Kiwanja, while protecting the civilian population, according to Sy Koumbo, UN information officer. Another Tanzanian soldier was injured, she said.
The army, using tanks and hseavy artillery, is also fighting the M23 rebels in the hills surrounding Kibumba town. The army said it won control of Kibumba on Saturday and now is advancing on the M23 rebels who retreated to the hills toward the Rwandan border.
In Kibumba, the army discovered two mass graves, North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku told AP. The army has been ordered not to touch the graves so that they can be investigated by the government and the United Nations peacekeeping mission to Congo.
U.N. forces are not participating in the fighting, but are in armored personnel carriers and jeeps with mounted machine guns several kilometers (miles) behind the army forces. The M23 rebels and the Congolese government were urged by top U.N. officials to resolve their differences at the negotiating table in Kampala, Uganda. "We request all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to resume negotiations in Kampala," said the head of the U.N. mission to Congo, Martin Kobler, and Mary Robinson, the U.N.'s special representative to Africa's Great Lakes region, in a joint statement issued Saturday.
Mwanamilongo contributed to this report from Kinshasa, Congo.