M23 Rebels Take More Territory From Govt in East DR Congo

M23 (March 23 movement) rebels have captured the mining town of Rubaya in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after violent fighting with government forces, local sources said Wednesday.

After eight years of dormancy, the mostly Tutsi M23 rebellion took up arms again in late 2021, seizing large swathes of North Kivu province, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of its provincial capital Goma.

Local residents on Tuesday told AFP that the rebels had entered the town center after a morning of fighting. Local officials confirmed their presence there Wednesday.

“Rubaya has been under M23 control since yesterday evening. We left the town yesterday afternoon,” a Congolese police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Rubaya’s mines in North Kivu contain strategic minerals used in electronics, including coltan.

“The M23 is in Rubaya,” confirmed a spokesman for Wazalendo, or Patriots, an armed group fighting the M23 alongside the Congolese army.

“The enemy killed civilians, how many is not known,” he said, adding that the rebels had “recovered parcels of cobalt” from artisanal miners.

A health center official said three civilians died, including one woman and two men, and bullets wounded seven people, including one child. Around ten fighters were also killed, according to the source.

Witnesses said the rebels asked residents to go about their business as normal and to hand over any weapons they may have.

By Wednesday the town was calm and “we continued our activities,” a shopkeeper said.

According to Kinshasa, the United Nations, and Western countries, neighboring Rwanda is backing the M23, which Kigali denies.

“The M23 continues to advance towards the north of North Kivu but also towards (the neighbouring province of) South Kivu,” the UN’s DRC humanitarian coordinator Bruno Lemarquis said on Tuesday.

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