After several days of heavy fighting, the rebels captured the strategically important town, drawing condemnation from the United Nations.
M23 rebels have captured the strategic town of Quitoshanga in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo after several days of heavy fighting. Condemnation from the United Nations.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo Army confirmed the withdrawal on Friday, saying it was a tactical move to protect civilians in the face of renewed attacks by rebels.
Lieutenant Colonel Guillaume Nzique, spokesman for the Governor of the North Kivu Provincial Guard, said, “We will draw these genocidal forces deep into the city and tactically move the city to avoid the worst for the Kitshanga people.” withdrew from
“We are making every effort to get rid of this enemy,” he told AFP news agency.
Rebels captured Kitshanga late Thursday after capturing several villages on the road connecting the town of about 60,000 to the provincial capital, Goma, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) away.
A video on social media appeared to show militants from the M23 group celebrating and claiming their capture of the town. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video.
Lawrence Kanyuka, M23’s political spokesman, said in a statement Thursday that government forces had attacked civilians in Kitchanga and elsewhere, saying the rebel group “has an obligation to intervene and stop another genocide.” ” he said.
“We just went through the war in Kitchanga. We saw M23 killing people. I ran away to avoid it,” he said. A mother of four, she went to a makeshift shelter on the outskirts of Goma.
“For months, M23s have been moving towards Kisshanga and Masisi to fight Congolese forces, which are widely reported to be supported by militias, which the Congolese denies. Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb said of reports from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
“Two days ago, Congolese army sources said soldiers from the battalion had crossed from Rwanda to reinforce M23, which helped the rebels gain control of Kisshanga. It means that we are managing the road to Goma.”
UN calls for an end to hostilities
The UN peacekeeper, known by the acronym MONUSCO, said more than 500 people, including women and children, sought refuge at its base in the town of Kitshanga.
MONUSCO spokesman Ndeye Khady Lo said civilians fleeing Kitchanga were given tents, food, water and first aid.
“M23 must cease all hostilities and withdraw from occupied territories,” Law told the Associated Press.
At least 450,000 people were displaced after months of escalating fighting.
Regional leaders agreed in November to withdraw M23 fighters from eastern regions of the DRC, but the M23s have been accused of violating ceasefire terms.
Goma, home to more than a million people on the border with Rwanda, was already cut off from the north after rebels occupied Route 2 during attacks in October and November.
The M23, which Kinshasa claims is backed by Rwanda, disarmed in late 2021 and has since seized parts of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, north of Goma. UN experts and the European Union have accused Rwanda of supporting her M23.
Rwanda denies support for the group, one of dozens operating in the mineral-rich eastern Congo.
Under diplomatic pressure and oversight of regional forces deployed in the region, the rebels announced their withdrawal from the two occupied territories in December and January.
The fighting came just days before Pope Francis was due to visit the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, for three days. The trip was originally scheduled to include a stop east, but the Vatican scrapped it amid mounting violence.