Soldiers backed by United Nations (UN) helicopter gunships battled rebels around a strategic army garrison near a mountain gorilla reserve in eastern Congo, as thousands of people continued to flee a three-month-old rebellion allegedly backed by neighbouring Rwanda.
UN Radio Okapi said the rebels yesterday began attacking Ruman-gabo military camp, which the soldiers had only retaken from the M23 rebel group on Wednesday. The camp is a mile (kilometre) from the headquarters of the Virunga National Park, whose rangers were forced to flee by fighting earlier this month.
The radio station said the rebels continue to hold Rutshuru town and nearby Kiwanja, and that thousands of people had fled in recent days. More than 260,000 civilians have been forced from their homes in recent months, according to UN agencies, some across the borders to Uganda and Rwanda, others toward the southern provincial capital of Goma.
Major Olivier Hamuli, an army spokesman, said soldiers made a strategic retreat from Rutshuru "to avoid a bloodbath" of civilians.