Congolese rebel M23 kidnaps suspected fighters

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Fighting between the rebel M23 group and the army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, continued on Monday, according to residents contacted by telephone by AFP from Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

According to the United Nations and the United States, the mostly ethnic M23 group is backed by neighbouring Rwanda, which is mostly governed by ethnic Tutsis.

The clashes began on Sunday in two clusters of villages called Bishusha and Tongo.

“There was a fight between us and the M23 in Bishusha. Today, in Marangara, fighting continued between armed patriot groups and the M23, because our forces are not in Tongo,” a Congolese army source said, requesting anonymity. Marangara is a village in the Tongo cluster.

A security source confirmed the clashes and added that “the army is still occupying its positions.”

Meanwhile, in Tongo and the surrounding area, about 50 people accused of collaborating with the Nyatura, which is a mostly ethnic Hutu Congolese militia, and the FDLR, which is a militia founded by mostly ethnic Rwandan Hutus, were kidnapped by the M23, leader Cyprien Ngoragore, said.

About 15, including women, have so far been released, he said but at least “18 civilians accused of colluding” with the two armed groups were still in the hands of the M23 rebels, he added.

Two relatives of some of those kidnapped said that the hostages were taken to the town of Rutshuru, currently considered one of the M23’s bases.

“We tried to contact the M23, they told us that our brothers are alive,” the nephew of one hostage said.

They were “displaced people coming back to get food, they are accused of working with the FDLR and Nyatura. We ask that our brothers be released. Let the government get involved,” the man implored, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“My father is 76 years old,” another man said, adding that he was kidnapped with the others last Monday. “They spent three days in a cell, they were tied up before being transferred to Rutshuru. They are accused of working with the Nyatura and FDLR,” he said.

The M23, is a mostly Congolese ethnic Tutsi armed group which was defeated in 2013 but took up arms again late last year.

In recent months it has conquered large swathes of territory in North Kivu, a Congolese province bordering Rwanda.

Congolese ethnic Tutsi and Hutu groups have long been caught up in the violence in the east, with some joining an array of militia groups.

Much of the violence has its roots in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, it was perpetrated by Rwanda’s majority ethnic Hutu group, which wanted to wipe out the minority Tutsis and those who supported them.

Today Rwanda’s government remains dominated by ethnic Tutsis and they remain the minority group.

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