DRC: Clashes raise fears for 15,000 IDPs

Friday, December 7, 2007

Government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) claimed to have routed fighters loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda from the North Kivu town of Mushake, raising concerns for the safety of 15,000 displaced people in the nearby village of Kilolwire.

“This morning we took total control of Mushake; we are now conducting raids and mopping-up operations on the mountains overlooking Kilolwire to where the enemy fled,” the deputy commander of the North Kivu military zone, Delphin Kahimbi, told IRIN by phone on 5 December.

“The fighting around Kilolwire, where there are at least 15,000 displaced people, mostly from Mushake, would be dangerous if the clashes reached the village,” said Louis Igneault, spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Kahimbi insisted that the army would take into account the presence of civilians in Kilolwire.

He went on to report that the bodies of 28 fighters loyal to Nkunda had been collected in Mushake. “It’s clear they suffered a lot of casualties and took away other dead, but we only lost seven soldiers and recorded about 30 wounded.”

The UN mission in DRC, MONUC, which has offered its support to military operations against Nkunda, confirmed that the army had retaken Mushake after three days of fighting.

According to OCHA, a multi-agency UN team is likely to visit Mushake towards the end of the week to assess the humanitarian situation.

Source: IRIN